OK, So I’m Writing a Book

My New Studio Still under Constsruction

Life! Life! Life! What it is to feel it and paint it as it really is. To love it for its own sake; to see it as the only true, everlasting, ever-changing beauty, and refuse to see how it might be ‘improved’ by being emasculated. To understand that its so-called defects are really signs of character. To put life into things, and put life into men! That’s the only way to be a God!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Studio time has been pleasure-filled today as I’ve returned to the task of painting evergreens in watercolor. I certainly share the sentiments expressed by Paul Cezanne long ago when he wrote “I am still learning from nature, and it seems to me I am making slow progress.” The Zola novel I’m reading has been reported to be based partly on the life of Cezanne and the quote above is from the character believed to be the artist.

Evergreen Experiments

I have accepted the invitation to address the Mansfield Art Association this evening. The ninety-minute presentation will combine a talk on our current art scene, my new projects in progress, and finally a demonstration of one of my watercolor techniques (these evergreens, if I can get a handle on them sometime today!). I have missed dearly the camaraderie of other artists, and this group I have never met before. So I’m looking forward to tonight.

Showcasing my art and my writing in the form of a published book has been a long-time fantasy of mine. But I never really took the idea seriously. Until COVID19. For months I have been satisfied with reading, blogging and making new paintings. But now, with my final art festival of the year canceled, meaning 2020 will pass without my doing a single public art event, aside from my One-Man-Show in February, I have decided I will indeed publish a book, even if I have to self-publish. As with other artist friends with whom I’ve contacted over past months, I feel that I must do something.

Currently, my work on Turvey’s Corner 63050 has reached forty-five typed pages with my watercolors as illustrations. But new characters have been born in my mind over the past forty-eight hours, and I have decided to introduce one of them now . . .

THE PHILOSOPHER

Bob Farrow (prismacolor pencil)

Bob Farrow liked to sit. And smoke. And drink. And think. The septuagenarian still had plenty of blonde woven through his hair and beard, and he struck quite a figure in the sun, seated in his old chair with nothing but time on his hands. His leisurely life came, compliments of the federal government. A Navy World War II veteran, he suffered the misfortune of standing nearby when an aircraft disintegrated upon landing, scattered shards of steel and glass in all directions. Bob spent six months in the hospital, discharged with the orders of never to lift anything heavier than twenty pounds. Since 1944, Bob fished, tinkered with small engines in his tool shed and engaged in his favorite hobbies mentioned above. Turvey’s Corner folk referred to him as The Porch Front Philosopher.

Looking up, he noticed Hank pulling up in front of his shed in the old borrowed Dodge pickup from Jerry’s Texaco, and a trailered john boat.

“Where you off to?”

Hank stepped out of the truck with a pint in hand and sauntered across the grass to sit in one of Bob’s empty chairs. “Rock of David. Things are slow at the station, so I closed early. I may just camp out overnight if the fishing’s good.”

“What’s that you got there?”

Hank handed Bob the pint of Jim Beam. Taking off the cap, Bob poked the bottleneck into his mouth and took a long pull.

“Sodie pop! If you want the real thing, it’s this.” Bob handed over his pint of Ten High.

As far as Hank was concerned, the Ten High tasted about as good as gasoline, but he just nodded in acquiescence. No doubt it cost less than half what he paid for the Jim Beam, and worth even less.

“Yer lookin’ sorta grumpy,” Bob observed. “Somethin’ happen at the station?”

“Nothing ever happens at the station. I’m just tired of all days being the same, that’s all. I thought if I got out of town a little while, things might look better.”

“We talked about this before,” Bob mused, taking another long draw from his bottle. “Yer still young, yet. Don’t worry. You’ll find yer way.”

“I guess you’re right. Anyway, thanks for the time. I want to get on the river before dark, so I’ll catch ya later.”

Two days later, Hank returned to catch Bob up on the news of his fishing. The old man wasn’t in his lawn chair, his shed was padlocked, so Hank went to the door of his small house and knocked. Nothing. Looking up, Hank noticed his old Rambler sitting in the driveway, so he knocked again. Still nothing.

Walking around to the side window, Hank shielded his eyes and peered into the dim living room. There was Bob, seated in his recliner, his head slumped forward. Hank knew.

He’s No Longer Here

The quiet neighborhood was shattered by the sharp crack of three crushing blows from the ball-peen hammer that broke open the padlock on The Philosopher’s shed door.  They had just found Bob in the living room of his small house, dead, seated in his favorite recliner with a cold cup of coffee and his tattered copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the side table.  Beneath the layers of his faded beard, they thought they could detect a slight smile.  His book was opened to “Song of Myself” and he had underlined in pencil: “I am large; I contain multitudes.”  The onlooking friends mused about his seven decades and all that his life had encompassed.

Entering the dim interior of the fishing shack, they looked silently at the tangled pile of gear in the corner, and hesitated to gather it up, as though rudely disrupting the sanctity of a shrine.  There lay the Garcia Mitchell 300 open-faced reel, with which he had landed his 6-lb. largemouth bass while poking about the lily pads in a rowboat one evening on Hunnewell Lake.  He was only a teenager then.  The bait caster was still there–the one he never could seem to get the hang of, trying in vain to cast old wooden bass plugs without backlash.  His Uncle Art would just look on, shake his head, smile, and mumble through the smoke of his Lucky Strike: “Cute Kid.”  The Pflueger fly reel and vintage bamboo rod were a gift from an aged farrier in Pine, Colorado, who passed them on as a torch, noting that his fly fishing days were behind him.  The battered suitcase was from college days back in ’42, when he hopped the Frisco passenger train for his monthly cross-the-state visits to his parents back home.  And on that train, he was always served Dining Car Coffee.  And the old knapsack–he never tired of bragging on the day he talked an Athenian merchant out of that tattered leather bag for $12.  On that day, he owned the world.  

Hank stood there silently, his tear-filmed eyes surveying the stack of assorted memories, each item with its own story, clinging to its own fragment of history. It was time to take down the monument. As he removed and packed each item, Hank vowed that Old Bob’s story would not end here. Somehow, Hank and Randy would write new chapters and find ways to extend The Porch Front Philosopher’s legacy.

_____________________________________

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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4 Responses to “OK, So I’m Writing a Book”

  1. doubledacres Says:

    Hot damn! You hit a home rub with this one my friend!

    Like

  2. doubledacres Says:

    Hot damn! You hit a home run with this one my friend!

    Like

  3. Dian Darr Says:

    Wow! First of all, the portrait of Bob, the Philosopher, is stunning! And, what a way to go in your own chair with Whitman by your side! Wonderful!

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      That portrait was done in prismacolor pencil a long time ago. I recently received a batch of my 35 mm slides digitized by a professional organization. That portrait of Bob was among them. I keep hoping I will bite the bullet and attempt a watercolor portrait using that as a reference. The story accompanying this was started about 20 years ago, and I found it recently and subjected it to a massive rewrite, then inserted it into my Turvey’s Corner collection.

      Like

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