Drawing or Painting or Both?

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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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