Archive for January, 2020

Prepping for the One-Man-Show

January 26, 2020

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Arrangement of the Selected Paintings

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Quiet Winter Morning for Planning

Seated by the fire on this cold winter Sunday morning, I find myself bathed in this spirit of well-being, this eudaimonia. My one-man-show opens February 1 at CC Young assisted living facility in Dallas, Texas, a beautiful campus that features an artist every month, booked a year in advance. As the day draws nearer, my pulse quickens.

I have selected thirty-three framed watercolors to hang in the show. Sitting here with coffee, poring over the images, I feel the same sentiments expressed in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged describing the steel magnate witnessing the first pouring of his new alloy developed over the past ten years:

He did not think of the ten years. What remained of them tonight was only a feeling which he could not name, except that it was quiet and solemn. The feeling was a sum, and he did not have to count again the parts that had gone to make it. But the parts, uncalled, were there, within the feeling. They were the nights spent at scorching ovens in the research laboratory of the mills . . . the nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure . . . (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)

My watercolor show spans the last ten years of my life, and I too have this broad feeling of tranquility which is the sum of ten years’ worth of parts or episodes. Gazing at the images floods me with the same kind of memories one knows when flipping the pages of a photo album or scanning the images on a phone. I love the immediacy one experiences when looking at visual art, compared to the time lapse when observing other media. To experience the full impact of an artist’s expression, the observer has to wait to get to the end of a story, poem, movie or song. But with visual art, the effect is instantaneous, and as I look over the pictures, the memories wash over my consciousness.

Fishing Memories upright resized

“He is No Longer Here”

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This image takes me back seven years. I took the photo February 10, 2013 while working on this still life in my Man Cave (garage) 😊 with a space heater at my feet and hot cup of coffee and thermos at my elbow. As I worked on the piece, a story formed in my mind, and I stopped in the middle of the work to write out what I was thinking:

When the neighbors hammered the padlock off the deceased man’s fishing shed, they peered inside the darkened room with sadness at the world of memories their dear friend had left behind.  Guarding the assembly from its high perch, the kerosene lantern called to memory nights spent on the Mississippi River dikes, waiting for catfish that would find their way to the Griswold skillet.  The Canada Dry crate was the old fisherman’s stool for the nightlong vigils.

Bass fishing featured the Garcia Mitchell open-faced reel and the vintage wooden plugs for the area lakes and ponds.  In his retirement years, fly fishing took over, and the old man delighted in long road trips in his Dodge pickup to the Colorado Rockies where he would not be heard from for weeks at a time. The battered suitcase was his lifelong road companion, as was the dark leather knapsack purchased from an old leather shop on the dusty streets of Athens during his European excursions. 

The old man had not been heard from for more than a week, and the inquiring neighbors were saddened to enter his home and find him in his final resting place—his favorite recliner in the small front room of the ramshackle house.  His cup was still half-filled with the Dining Car Coffee he relished throughout his years working on the Frisco railroad.  Now, only his possessions remained to tell his life’s story.

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Memories of my Favorite Hideaway

On October 20, 2016, I retreated to my favorite getaway, the remnants of a country store in rural east Texas. The dear friends who own the property have granted me access for quiet “away” time. On this particular morning, I was working on a painting of the door behind the cash register. Beyond the door are a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The former store owners lived behind their business and now I am thankful to be allowed to reside here when I need to take some days away from the city.

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“Beyond the Door”

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“Heidegger’s Hut”

I have named this old store/residence Heidegger’s Hut. German philosopher Martin Heidegger built a cabin in the Black Forest in 1927 because he did not enjoy Berlin though he taught at the university there. He frequently retreated to this cabin, a rustic facility with no electricity, and in this enclave away from the city noise he wrote all his famous books and essays. This special country store is my favorite retreat from the bustle of suburban and city life. To this day, I believe some of my best work was done in the quiet of this environment, away from the public school and university where I divided my work time until 2017.

In 2015, I was honored to inaugurate the Artist-in-Residence program for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. This island university built a field station on the Texas Laguna Madre and transported me there by boat to live for a week, observe the surroundings, keep a blog, and create a body of watercolors. My memories this morning include nights spent in my studio prepping for this residency, and then the special moment when I discovered a new technique for painting grasses while on the island.

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Planning my Residency

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Experiments in a New Technique

Like the character in the novel, I have enjoyed this morning of quiet, thinking over some of the highlights of the last decade of my life that have made possible the show coming up in a week. This show has been titled “Memories from a Small Town” and will be presented in eight sections–small town, country store, filling station, church & institution, railroad, stately residence, abandoned property and the great outdoors. I have been asked to present a public talk and powerpoint presentation February 13 during the Meet the Artist event. The show will hang for the duration of February, and I hope any of you within driving distance will come and view it.

Thanks for reading and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com

Shultz reduced

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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Progress on the Train

January 22, 2020

I find it difficult, blogging with this smart phone, but I wanted to show my readers the Big Boy as it stands today. I may be working on it later this evening, I am not sure at this point. But hopefully, I’ll find more to say tomorrow, with more developed pictures of its progress.

Thanks for reading!

The Morning Watch

January 22, 2020

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Preparing for the Visitation

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

 

And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind . . Romans 12:2 (King James Version)

This morning, I am opening a vein on this blog. Allow me to be frank: I am turned off when I read blogs telling me what I should be doing if I plan on being successful in my endeavors. But on the other hand, I feel drawn in when I feel the blogger is pouring out his/her heart in the written piece. I assure you that the only reason I am posting the following remarks is because I feel compelled to do so; I want to share this most intimate part of my life, but don’t wish for anyone to think I am prescribing or selling.

Though cold and rainy and dark outside, this interior room is glowing as is my own spirit. Forty-eight years ago, I came across a practice that I have not given up though much has changed throughout my life’s odyssey. This practice I call a “morning watch.” My best days begin with this practice, and I am going to try and share it with my readers, hoping to do it justice. I have a watercolor beside me, waiting for today’s work, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet, because the morning has been too good to rush into the practical work. I hope to blog the watercolor later today . . .

Forty-eight years ago, as a freshman in college, five hours from the home where I had been nurtured, and with no car, I was planted in a dormitory from where I walked daily to classes and to a Baptist Student Union as scheduling permitted. From my new friends at the Union I learned this practice they called “Quiet Time.” Since those days I have entered and exited the university, the seminary, the church, the police department and finally the public school. Now retired, the only thing that has changed has been this—I don’t have to be somewhere at 7:15 to report for duty. I don’t leave this quiet to find myself in a noisy room filled with empty words. My days are planned as it suits me, and the sweetness of the start no longer has to end after ten minutes or an hour. A friend once told me upon my retirement that “every day is Saturday when you’re retired.” He’s right. And I am so delighted with this chapter of my life.

How does the day begin? With French-pressed coffee. This is a ritual for me that I enjoy, and it will take about ten minutes to complete. As four cups of water are waiting to boil, I am turning the crank on an antique coffee grinder, having learned that the coarse grind from this instrument is just right for French press. Turning this crank, my thumb is anchored in the depression in the wood of someone’s thumb grip from the ancient past, and I muse about the stories that person could tell. Was s/he standing in a farmhouse kitchen, looking out a window across pastureland? Was the person dwelling in a city, listening to white noise while turning the crank in the morning? My imagination always goes down that road during the minute or so that I grind. By the time the grounds are poured into the boiling water, my mind already is moving. In the earlier days of the stove top percolator, I loved the metaphor of my mind percolating about the same time the coffee did.

Next, I have to select my special cup for the day. I have never counted them, but I know I have far more than thirty, because I used to crate them to take to school on special days when I made coffee for my philosophy and art history classes. I probably have over fifty coffee mugs, all of them packed with their own location memories. This morning I am drinking from the Bodes mug I purchased at a rustic store established in 1919 in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Once the coffee is poured, the best part begins. This morning watch, forty-eight years ago, began with prayer, and I guess that is still happening. But my prayers are no longer the ones uttered in those ministerial days. Rather they are similar to the ones mentioned in Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. Professor Max Gottlieb was suspected by his pious students to be an atheist. But in the midst of an argument, one of them stressed that the professor’s late nights in the laboratory were a form of prayer. And that is the nature of my own morning prayers—the journal is opened and I begin sketching, collaging, drafting and designing the first page. Then I pour out my thoughts in the journal. This could be a single paragraph or as many as ten pages. But once I feel I have exhausted my own thoughts I then turn to something of quality to read.

I always have a half dozen books with bookmarks in them as my reading is always divided among several works at the same time. If I don’t open one of these, then I turn to a library of over 2,000 volumes and pull something that strikes my fancy. And I begin to read. I am looking for an oracle, a direction, a guide. In the early days of ministry, I opened the Bible, believing that God would speak to me if I read prayerfully and listened. I now am convinced that revelation can come from many sources, and when something finally seizes my imagination, then I feel held, embraced; I feel I have been grasped by Something greater than I. And then I resume my writing in the journal, and many times the ideas that come to me are carried to the blog. That is how I start my days. The mornings are the freshest and best, holding out possibilities.

So, what did I read this morning? Romans 12:2. But when I read, I dialogue with the text and shape it to help me in my search for meaning. To borrow the words of Harold Bloom, I begin to overhear myself as I think over the text. Not wishing to sound like a pompous snob, I stress that when I turn to the New Testament, I read the Greek text. That is one of the few things of worth my seminary training provided. I spend hours poring over this text, though there is no longer a pulpit waiting or a class. Why do I do it? For the same reason I read daily—I am seeking a Word, an oracle, some kind of governing dynamic for the day’s journey. And on rare occasions, I will place these thoughts in a blog entry.

What I found this morning: Paul urged his readers not to be shaped, modeled by this world. The Greek word “world” is better translated “age” and this particular word in the Greek New Testament is pejorative. The first century Christians regarded this world as ruled by demonic powers, and a new age was desired. Few readers of the English text notice the multiplicity of references to “this world” in the New Testament, and the sentiment is similar to that of today’s racist when referring to “these people.”

I have felt that sentiment much longer than the past forty-eight years. In “this world” I have never truly felt at home. My childhood was spent living in an isolated house without a neighborhood. I didn’t play with others, and my brother, four years younger, didn’t fulfil the companionship need. Once at school, I didn’t know how to connect and didn’t have my own “crowd” till I was a senior in high school. Then it was off to university, five hours away, where the Baptist Student Union embraced me, and I finally felt I had found a home. That lasted a semester. Then, by an unusual twist of circumstances, I was called to “serve.” I began pastoring a church of mostly retired farmers fifteen miles away. There was no one in that congregation my age with whom I could bond, and I lost my connection to the Baptist Student Union because I needed to be on the church field, working, instead of “fellowshipping” in the Union during the evenings. I’m starting to ramble . . . just trying to say, “this world” didn’t really provide me with a community. And since that day in 1972, I went to university, seminary, then to work, and finally to a public school, and though I was surrounded by multitudes, I never really felt I belonged.

But there is something more pressing to me as I look at Paul’s use of “this age.” A good word, I believe, to describe the Christian perspective of that first-century darkened world, is Zeitgeist—the Spirit of the Age or Spirit of the Times. And in 2020, I certainly do not feel a part of the spirit of our times. And I refuse to be shaped and modeled by those forces. In my reading, I find more nourishment from the New Testament, or Emerson, or Nietzsche, or Tillich, or Goethe, than I find in social media or news media. So, to address the negative, I choose NOT to be conformed to this age.

Resuming Paul’s text—“but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformed is the Greek word where we get “metamorphosis” and it was the same word used of Jesus when he became radiant before his inner three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. That glow is what I feel this morning as I write this, and I feel on many mornings when the “watch” has gone well. And finally, that word “renewing”–I like the word Renaissance. So I translate the passage in this manner:

. . . and don’t be shaped by the current Zeitgeist. Instead, be reconstructed by the Renaissance of the mind . . .

Thanks for reading, and please know this is not intended to be a prescription, just sharing what’s on my heart this morning. And now, I am ready to paint . . .

Shultz on website

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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One Bite at a Time

January 22, 2020

Question: How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time. 

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Working into the Night

Early this morning, when I approached my in-progress work on this Union Pacific “Big Boy”, I decided it was time to add some weight to this behemoth. For a couple of days I was experimenting with colors on the body of the locomotive, and it seemed the more I layered washes of pastel colors, the more weightless and ethereal the iron horse apppeared.

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Experimental Pastel Colors on the Locomotive

I realized quite early in this work that I had to figure out a way to paint this enormous battleship-gray locomotive and not end up with a boring painting. Granted, the complexity of all the moving parts along with the shadows and highlights could provide plenty of contrast and interest for the viewer, I nevertheless feared that an overall flat gray would kill the painting.

I had been postponing the detailing of this subject, clearly intimidated by the complex congeries of planes and lines. Finally I recalled that line about eating an elephant and decided it was time to approach the subject, one bite at a time. Quite quickly the old feeling came back. The devil is in the details, and I really enjoy immersing myself in the variety. I really don’t know how many hours I worked at this one today, taking plenty of breaks for making coffee, reading, writing in the journal and taking exercise walks. But I continued to return to the painting and found myself working even into the evening.

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Finally, Some Weight and Depth Occurring

I don’t know how exactly my live encounter with this locomotive translates into my painting, but I honestly believe it has the potential of becoming one of my better works. Though I am working from a photograph taken when this train pulled into Palestine, Texas last November, I was there in person to feel the concussion of this 604-ton dinosaur smoking, steaming and blasting its whistle in my presence as it glowed in the morning sun. And I believe that live encounter will prevent this from becoming a generic, saccharine picture.

I have ridden behind the steam locomotives of the Texas State Railroad between Palestine and Rusk, along with the Durango-Silverton Railroad and the Cumbres-Toltec. But those engines were tiny compared to this monster that made me shudder when it rounded the bend in the distance and chugged up to where we all stood in awe. I stayed that afternoon for about half an hour, but returned at sunrise the next morning and lingered for two hours studying it before it finally pulled away. All the while the smoke and steam never ceased billowing out of this enormous steel hulk.

There remains plenty of work to do on this project, and I am happy to know that. I can’t wait to rise in the morning and stand over it again for the day. Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures to post then.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website: www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz reduced

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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Gathering Loose Ends

January 19, 2020

Sunday finds me up to my eyeballs with this Big Boy. Recently I’ve tried to introduce colors on the locomotive so as not to end up with a massive congeries of dead gray shapes. I have also made some decisions on how to render the foreground gravel textures. The steam billowing out the side is proving challenging as I try to figure out how to introduce blues into the gray.

I hope to write more later-typing this on my smartphone is tedious. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Drawing or Painting or Both?

January 17, 2020

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At Work on the Union Pacific “Big Boy”

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The “Big Boy”–18 x 24″ watercolor

Drawing is the probity of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Painting can overcome one with its sensuousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.

Robert Motherwell

January has provided plenty of time and relaxation to pursue a pair of commissions–steam locomotives. These are subjects I have always loved to paint, But only when I had weeks of leisure between calendar appointments. Now, with west Texas temperatures plummeting below freezing, it is nice not to have to get out and drive anywhere. I love the dim winter light in the windows, the sounds of the howling winds outside and the crackle of a fire in the fireplace.

Part of this morning was given to reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. While painting, I listened to some of his interviews on Youtube and decided I wanted to read more from him. In 1970 he published an essay, “Thoughts on Drawing”. This I have read a number of times over past years and am glad I gave it another look this morning.

I did not know until college that I was more of a draughtsman than a painter. My painting professor called my oils “colored drawings” and my student teaching advisor told me I needed to be more “painterly”. My art history professor, looking at my series of oils, remarked “nice drawings.” This may be why I eventually turned to watercolor, because in that media, one can get away with drawing with color.

In re-reading the Motherwell essay, I came up with this remarkable observation from the poet Baudelaire, whom Motherwell never tired of quoting:

Pure draughtsmen are philosophers and dialecticians. Colorists are epic poets. 

Throughout my life, I have held the deepest regard for philosophers as well as poets, feeling I lacked the gifts to be either, while always trying to be both. I always thought the philosopher anchored the left brain with reasoning and discpline, while poetry resided in the right with emotion and exploration. The Greek dramatists perceived Apollo as patron saint of reason while Dionysus advocated risk.

Personally, I feel most “in my element” in watercolor when I am feeding both sides. That is happening with this locomotive–I am exacting in the details of the machine while at the same time full of swish when dealing with the steam, smoke and general atmosphere. The entire time I have worked on this, I continually moved back and forth between the two regions, never feeling boredom or tedium. The day has been splendid while working on this piece. I am very pleased knowing I am a long way from finishing; I feel I am going to regret seeing this one come to a conclusion, so fulfilling has been the experience of pursuing it.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Changes

January 16, 2020

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Kevin and Alan in the Morning–New Horizons

All we are is dust in the wind.

Kansas

Waking on this frigid, dark and rainy winter morning, I made coffee and went to my desk to begin searching for ways to push back against an encroaching despondency. It isn’t the weather. The video announcement was released yesterday afternoon online from Smooth Rock 93.5 FM: the station has been donated to a non-profit, church ministry in Houston, so my gallery roommates will not be broadcasting when I return to Palestine. Kevin and Alan in the Morning made their final broadcast yesterday, not signing off because they had not yet been notified that the plug had been pulled.  I streamed the station all morning today, because the app is still running on my phone. But their voices and early morning humor won’t happen today. They posted their farewell video yesterday afternoon, and this morning their picture (above) has appeared on Facebook advising us to stay tuned. They have some ideas in the hopper about what to do next, but listeners remain in the dark to find out when or if we will hear from them again.

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Kevin Harris

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Alan Wade

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Victoria Minton-Beam

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Marc Mitchell

I will not forget the summer of 2018 when I was told of the arrival of Smooth Rock to Palestine. And I will not forget the feelings of entering the gallery on weekday mornings to hear the duo broadcasting live, often calling me over to the microphone to join in on their discussions. They have been good friends and patrons of the musical, visual and performing arts in east Texas, and their megaphone is going to be sorely missed. I wonder how long it will take for me to enter The Gallery at Redlands and be comfortable with the broadcast studio no longer in the room with me. The presence was a welcome one, and it will take some effort getting used to the radio silence.

The Presocratics began writing 2500 years ago that it is necessary for anything that has a beginning to have an end. We all know this. But knowing that doesn’t make these realities any easier. And so, Kevin, Alan, Victoria, Marc—I hope our paths continue to intersect in one way or another. I am not ready to let go of you.

I am forced now to turn my attention to some imminent deadlines. My one-man-show, “Memories from a Small Town”, will open February 1 at the Point and Pavilion building at CC Young Senior Living Center, 4847 West Lawther Drive, Dallas. At the time of this writing I am compiling the list of works that will hang in the show. I have been asked to make a presentation at the Meet the Artist reception February 13 from 3:30 to 4:30. So, I am also putting together a Powerpoint presentation with accompanying remarks.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Juggling More than One Interest

January 15, 2020

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Nearing Completion on the KATY train

To achieve their goal, masterpieces must charm but also penetrate the soul and make a deep impression on the mind that is similar to reality. . . . Therefore the artist must have studied all the motives of mankind and he must know nature thoroughly. In short he must be a philosopher.

Jacques Louis David

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Early Stages of the UP Big Boy

Recently, my blog activity has been sharply curtailed. Scheduled events are approaching quickly: a one-man-show, a speaking engagement and a watercolor workshop. In the midst of planning and corresponding with other parties involved, I have been submerged in a pair of watercolor commissions of locomotives and, as always, much reading.

I naively thought that since I would not be teaching this semester my study hours would significantly diminish. Instead, with no assigned subject matter, I find myself spending more time in book stores and public libraries, and looking over taller stacks of books at home. Soon, I may be responding to what I’ve been reading from Daniel Goleman’s books on emotional intelligence along with Alain de Botton’s ideas on art, philosophy and life.

But today, I have found myself ricocheting among the ideas of several notable painters: Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. Returning to my favorite hobby horses, I find myself musing over ways to balance academic study with making art. On most days of my life, I find myself holding the reins of these two horses as they pull my cart on this slippery, rutty path. I have told my friends that when I am painting, I’m thinking about what I want to read and write, and while reading and writing, I’m thinking about what I want to paint. Both activities tug at me perennially.

I opened this blog with the quote from Jacques Louis David as I have been reading of the lives of the NeoClassical artists steeped in philosophy and academic pursuits along with their painting. I followed that up with my resumed reading from the journals of Eugene Delacroix, and read this morning his criticisms of one of his most intimate colleagues, Paul-Marc-Joseph Chenavard. Whereas Delacroix, the quintessential Romantic, drew much inspiration from music, and spent quality time in the company of Chopin, Chenavard, steeped in German philosophy, believed intellect to be the main driver of the artist. Delacroix, in one of his journal entries, made reference to “the learned and unfortunately too cold Chenavard. He puts literature in the first rank, painting comes next, and music is only last.”

In a flurry of text messages with one of my artist friends this morning, we discussed the plethora of avenues of inspiration available to the artist, and agreed that we shouldn’t denigrate anyone for pursuing different stimuli from our own. Anyone engaged in the creative task should feel free to open up to the richness of sources available to us.

Long ago, when I was employed in the Protestant ministry, I struggled to balance private academic study with public expression. Frequently, I was asked by parishioners and fellow pastors what I wished to be, a scholar or a preacher. I never understood that false dichotomy, and marveled every time I encountered the sentiment that the pulpit was no place for an academician. Later when I turned to education, I no longer had to face that dichotomy; a teacher was expected to be academically driven.

But once I became active as an artist, I found the wedge once again driven between academic pursuits and artistic expression. Frequently I found myself floundering in discussions with fellow artists who wished to discuss only techniques, materials and subject matter for painting, but not theory. As I studied and taught art history, I found my kindred spirits in that world, Robert Motherwell especially. This man started out as an academician, and when he turned to painting, he brought that world with him. Throughout his lengthy career, he found a way to write, publish and lecture as well as paint and exhibit. In that balance, he has become a personal hero of mine. Every time I feel that there is a conflict between the disciplines, I return to his collected writings, fully understanding his frustrations an he spoke of the difficulty (and rewards) of striking the balance.

I have posted photos of the two paintings I’ve been working on recently. One of them might be finished; I’ve laid it aside for a few days and will look at it later with fresh eyes to determine whether I should push it further. Meanwhile I am actively working on the much larger Union Pacific “Big Boy.” The KATY is a 9 x 12″; the Big Boy an 18 x 24″. In both works, I am entering a fascinating world as I experiment with smoke, steam and atmospheric effects. I suppose the reason for such stimulation is because I do not yet have an established algorithm or series of steps to follow. I feel like a chef in the kitchen experimenting with a little of this and a little of that as I use a spritz bottle, toothbrush and variety of brushes and X-acto knife along with sprinkles of salt and stale bread crumbs to push the pigments around on the dampened paper. And I’m frequently adding new warm and cool colors to my gray mixtures that I’ve never used before, and I’m coming up with several surprises, none of them unpleasant yet. It’s fun to paint with this sense of exploration and adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced

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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Musings in the Morning Light

January 9, 2020

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. . . and the philosophical light around my window is now my joy; may I be able to keep on as I have thus far!

The poet Hölderlin writing to a friend, December 2, 1802

I feel everlasting gratitude to a friend who allows me to reside in this lovely place for an extended visit. These days of privacy are filled with hours beside the fireplace where I can read by the gray morning winter light. My makeshift studio is a mere ten paces away, and I can honestly say that, for me, days spent in watercolor activity are better than days that are not. During the intermittent spells of allowing the paintings to dry, I love to immerse myself in books and writing.

January 2020 finds me in a reflective mode, as I look back at the prior year, and then further back over my personal years and continue recording memories I believe worth holding on to. I have recently made a pleasant discovery: Alain de Botton with his lectures available on Youtube, and books I’ve been checking out of a local library. As my life is anchored by the activities of reading, writing and making art, I’m delighted to read these words from this kindred spirit:

Writing is the obvious response to the consequences of forgetting; art is the second central response.

There are a number of reasons why I have lived a life scribbling in my journals and later taking up blogging—these are records of my daily musings as I attempt to sort out and clarify what I want out of life. I cannot think of a better employment for myself than that of an educator—it was my “job” to assist students in the process of growing up, of cultivating the richest possible life. Now in retirement years, I am finally finding the time to pursue some interests that a daily job obstructed. This is probably why my blog activity has increased in frequency—this is my first semester without a contract. My normal activity lacks a classroom forum, so now I just launch my ideas into cyberspace.

Homer’s Odyssey is finally getting my attention. This was an epic I lacked interest to pursue during the years of my schooling. But now in these senior years, I am finding real treasure in these pages. The Robert Fagles translation has been a most satisfying read, and I cannot say enough about the excellent introduction authored by Bernard Knox. My heart sank when I read the sentiments of a first-century writer who thought Homer created this work after age had drained his intensity. According to this critic, this epic was “the product of Homer’s old age, of a mind in decline; it was a work that could be compared to the setting sun—the size remained, without the force.”

Sentiments such as this have always seized my attention. Throughout my earlier years, I came to terms with the reality of the ebb and flow of our creative exploits. We cannot be “on” all the time. And I have always believed that periods of creative dormancy were necessary rest and replenishment for the active soul. But now, in my senior years, I do worry about the reality of physical decline and the possibility of losing one’s edge in creativity. I feel that my own mind and imagination are more developed than ever before, but at the same time acknowledge that my powers of memory and recall are certainly not what they were. And so, I devote much of my life to re-reading and recording precious truths that have made life so meaningful.

I will never stop feeling deep gratitude that I was afforded the opportunity to learn Greek during my years of graduate study. I was taught Koinē Greek so I could translate the New Testament writings. But since those years, I have spent countless hours poring over Homeric and Presocratic texts and uncovering the most amazing ideas.

Recently, in my examinations of Homer, I have received new insights into the word “nostalgia.” The first part of this word Homer uses 245 times in his two epics. The verb nosteo and noun nostos point out the return to one’s home or country. The verb algeo and noun algos refer to pain or distress. Hence the word “nostalgia” indicates the pain of returning home. We know all too well the pangs we experience in revisiting our roots, whether it is returning home for a visit regardless of whether family members or friends are still living or not. We also know these pains when we re-open photo albums or even go back into our smart phones to review photos we have taken. We know these feelings if we re-read letters we have kept, or review diaries and journals.

Learning what I have about this word “nostalgia” has thrown a sharper spotlight on the travails of Odysseus, the “much-traveled” wanderer who has accumulated layer upon layer of experience resulting in much ambiguity as to his identity and purpose. Reading The Odyssey comes at a good time, because I’ve been working on a watercolor of a steam locomotive charging through the night, and it brings to mind many of my all-night excursions on AMTRAK from Fort Worth to St. Louis. Going back through my journals recently, I uncovered many layers of writings as I looked out the window of the moving train, surveying the back yards of impoverished neighborhoods, and backstreets of decrepit southern towns. On my headset, I was listening to acoustic, country blues guitar music accompanied by mournful voices and lyrics. And all the while, I was looking at the twinkle of Christmas lights on the shabby houses. I felt the co-mingling of warmth and sadness. Good will and poverty. I still shudder when I recall those cold, lonely nights of travel, heading home to revisit aging family members and friends.

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Work on a Commissioned Watercolor

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A man is whatever room he is in.

Japanese saying

Going back through my archive, I pulled this selfie I took in October 2016 because it was what I thought about when I sat beside the fire this morning, reading by the light coming through the windows behind me. The reason I return frequently to this photo (and I did a watercolor of it as well) is because the setting reminds me of all I’ve read of philosopher Martin Heidegger retreating to his cabin in the Black Forest to think and write his most famous works. At that time, he was a professor at the University of Berlin, but he preferred the solitude of the village of Todtnauberg and its intimate connection to nature. Every time I go back to that old store where I first sat in October 2016, I feel the connection to Heidegger in Todtnauberg, or Thoreau at Walden, or the theologian Karl Barth at his cottage in the Bergli. I am not the only one to feel that profound mental transport to other ages. I read the following recently from N. Scott Momaday:

By this time I was back into the book, caught up completely in the act of writing. I had projected myself—imagined myself—out of the room and out of time. I was there with Ko-sahn in the Oklahoma July.

In 1946, Martin Heidegger delivered his notable lecture “What Are Poets For?” Heidegger borrowed the line from a Hölderlin poem that pointed out the troublesome times Germany was facing in the nineteenth century, and Heidegger resurrected the words on the 1946 occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Rainer Maria Rilke’s death. Heidegger’s day in Germany was also a profoundly dark one, and he questioned what the role of a creator was when his/her culture faced a darkening time. I find January 2020 an extremely dark time in our world and wonder also what exactly I am to do in the face of this cultural midnight.

In the film “Pollock” there is the episode of Jackson Pollock visiting for the first time the general store in Springs, Long Island. The proprietor at the counter asks him if he’s from the city. When Pollock nods, the man responds that he doesn’t blame him for retreating to the small town. In a world where a man can invent the atom bomb the only thing one can do is retreat to a quiet place and do what you have to do. In our current darkening days I also wonder just exactly what I am to do.

January 2020 is proving to be a pensive month for me. I have a one-man-show opening in Dallas February 1, but until then, I have oceans of time around me and am glad to have the quality time and space to contemplate what to do in my next adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Wandering Thoughts while Painting

January 8, 2020

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Making Headway with this Commission

No one can get anywhere without contemplation. Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The morning started early this time, around 5:30. With my coffee, I tried to read from my “Bible” (Robert Henri, The Art Spirit), but found myself instead scribbling out a large number of pages in my journal. I recall Friedrich Nietzsche, as a classical philologist grieving for the scholar who could not think “unless he had a book between his fingers.” Nietzsche said that it was a tragedy to rise early in the morning with a mind fresh and ready for ideas, and to waste that time in other thinkers’ transcripts. I am convinced that if the nineteenth century had a problem with books standing between a thinker and his/her thoughts, today it is smart phones. Alain de Botton once said that the problem with our phones is not that we’re gaming too much, but that “they don’t allow us enough time with our thoughts.” Putting my phone on the shelf, I gave myself to good thoughts and good reading, knowing that whatever came to me over my phone could wait.

Probably the reason for my percolating mind this morning was reading Henri before bedtime last evening. I was captivated by his comments on the “powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development.” In Platonic fashion, Henri divided the world between a surface, material realm and an underlying, foundational, spiritual one. Building on this scheme, Henri then divided artists between the two realms. Emerging from the world of the illustrator which he knew all-too-well, Henri argued that “the artist of the surface does not see further than material fact. He describes appearances and he illustrates events.”

Henri, as a sage, devotes a large section of his book The Art Spirit to inspiring artists to seek that underlying spiritual dynamic:

Event and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface. But there is another and deeper change in progress. It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions. The artist of today should be alive to this deeper evolution on which all growth depends, has depended and will depend.

Aristotle pointed out two branches of knowledge: technē (from which we get technology) furnishes us the tools for our tasks, and sophia (translated “wisdom”) which is closer to the Delphic Oracle (“Know Thyself”), furnishing us with insight. It is this inner, self-knowledge that Aristotle said points us to the spirit of well-being or fulfilment (eudaimonia).

I have written about this in other blog posts but will write it again: I regard myself as a late bloomer, educationally. Throughout my public schooling, I lacked the maturity and discipline to apply myself to the school disciplines of study. The only skill I possessed was that as an artist, and fortunately those technical abilities (which I developed enthusiastically during junior and senior high school) landed me a scholarship to the university. At the university, I woke up to the world of ideas and could not satisfy my lust for learning. When my doctorate was completed, I did a swan dive into the classroom and remained for three decades. During these years in the educational crucible, I continued to study and reflect and examine the foundations for my artistic enterprise.

Now, retired, I find myself constantly making sketches of myself while in my element, seated, calm, and exploring my aesthetic world by making art, reading and writing out my thoughts:

Shultz reduced

 

This morning, while rendering this locomotive, I thought of Aristotle’s words, and decided that for me, technē could assist in portraying the “surface” of this painting, while hopefully sophia would percolate like my morning coffee, producing eudaimonia.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com.

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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