Archive for the ‘drybrush’ Category

Whittling and Weaving

January 6, 2020

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Goethe’s works, letters and diaries fill 143 volumes . . . of course by no means everything he wrote is first-rate, but – or perhaps it is because – he worked constantly and never sought the easy way out, least of all by following a formula.

Walter Kaufmann, Introduction to Goethe’s Faust

I cannot express the depths of my admiration for the writings of Goethe, and only wish I would have begun earlier in life to study his works. While working on this recent watercolor, I have been re-reading Faust during the drying periods. And as I read of Goethe’s prolific output, I am reminded of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the way his study was strewn with unfinished manuscripts and projects. After all these years, I have hundreds of volumes of handwritten journals on the shelf, years of blog posts in the cloud and hundreds of drawings and watercolor attempts stacked in the studio and stored in steamer trunks and suitcases. Knowing that Goethe continually edited his old works, I consider the possibilities of revisiting and revising my own.

As I continue fiddling with this watercolor, the extensive network of tree limbs and layers of woven grasses have drawn my focus to matters of design not often visited, and I am really enjoying this journey while at the same time pausing to read and ponder the most engaging literature.

When I focus all my attention on a patch of grasses within just a couple of square inches, I feel I am using a penknife to whittle on a log. I am easily swallowed up in such a tiny part of our world. And my mind visits so many unrelated ideas while I work at leisure. I cannot describe the well-being I experience when I am in my element.

I suppose the reason I feel so good about all this is because I am not following a formula, I am not bored by repetition, I am not on an assembly line cranking out product. I feel like a creator, free to experiment, not needing permission to spend time doing this. The lovely gift of retirement includes rising before daylight on a Monday morning, not having to go to work for someone else, but making coffee and entering the studio to play another day.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website www.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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A Thinker’s Well-Being

January 5, 2020

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Continued Work on the Dickens, Texas Landscape

. . . they make life harder for themselves than they should. Oh, that at long last you had the courage for once to yield yourselves to your impressions, to let yourselves be delighted, let yourselves be moved, let yourselves be elevated, yes, to let yourselves be taught and inspired and encouraged for something great . . . 

Goethe, conversation with his young secretary Eckermann, May 6, 1827

I didn’t post yesterday, choosing instead to make another sojourn out to Dickens, Texas to enjoy the fabulous barbecue there and then to stroll about the landscape in a nearby roadside park that offered access to a fascinating gorge and waterfall complete with walking trails. While on site, gazing at the fields of tall dead grasses, I recognized immediately that my yellows are too warm and intense than what I actually see during these sunny winter Texas days. Once I got back home, I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not I should neutralize my warm yellows or just let them continue as they are, and try to get the colors right on a future attempt at this landscape. Already I have poured quite a bit of work into this one, and wonder if I dare make such a profound change in its overall look.

Waking this Sunday morning, I chose to spend some quiet time reading and reflecting before resuming the painting. For a few days I have enjoyed the crackling intensity and restlessness of Faust. This time I decided I wanted to read from a quieter spirit. Having worked on the text of Plotinus Enniad I, I had focused all my previous efforts on his thoughts in Book 6 “On Beauty.” This morning I spent about an hour on Book 4 “On Well-Being.” Good choice. The word translated “well-being” is ευδαιμóνια (eudaimonia).

I discovered in this morning’s study that Plotinus, after examining the works of Aristotle and Stoic writers, concluded that “well-being” can be achieved by what we call today a “Life of the Mind.” Plotinus determined that the highest good results from a “life of the Intellect, independent of all outward circumstances and material and emotional satisfactions of our lower nature” (introductory statement from the editor Jeffrey Henderson). As I worked through the Plotinus text and read comments from the editor, I was surprised to find a parallel between Plotinus’s words and those from the Parable of the Sower we read from the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament.

Plotinus argued that the accumulation of material comfort can easily distract one who has the capacity of a life of the mind from actually experiencing this richness. When Jesus mentioned the four types of soils, he referred to the one overrun by thorns and thistles. He said this was indicative of those who wished to seek higher values, but the cares and “distractions” of this age sprung up and choked out the growth of the newly planted crop, thus rendering it unfruitful. I smiled at this for a number of reasons, one of which I’ll mention and then leave alone:

I purchased a book a few days ago, explaining how to incorprate Instagram into one’s business. As readers are aware, I launched a new website recently, and since that day have been studying ways to use social media to raise my profile in the art world. As one who loves to read daily, I have found myself recently struggling to balance this study of business and marketing with my longtime love of classical learning. Today I returned to classical learning, and feel much richer for it. In fact, I am more motivated to paint now than I have been while reading and exploring Instagram. Who would have guessed.

There, I said it. Now I’m ready to return to the painting. Thanks for reading, and yes, please take a look at my website if you haven’t:   www.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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Lost Among the Layers

January 3, 2020

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Reference Photo for my New Watercolor

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The Foundation: Three Layers of Masquing Removed

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Building the Composition

Mysterious in the light of day,

Nature, in veils, will not let us perceive her,

And what she is unwilling to betray,

You cannot wrest from her with thumbscrews,

wheel, or lever.

Goethe, Faust

After working well into last night on this watercolor, I awoke this morning with the feeling that I would lay it aside and just spend time reading for awhile. All that changed when I received a phone call from an artist friend with whom I hadn’t visited in ten months. Our chat lasted nearly half an hour, and my creative energy level has been buzzing ever since.

Today, after burrowing through several layers of wash and masquing, I have reached a point where I am unsure of my next step. The Goethe quote came to mind, because I have always been convinced that there is no algorithm, no template for painting a landscape, at least not for me. That is why I sometimes struggle when conducting a watercolor workshop on landscape painting because I seldom find myself repeating the same sequence of techniques each time. One of Edward Hopper’s contemporaries criticized his oils because of the many preparatory steps he took in drawing and watercolor sketching before approaching the final canvas. Every compositional detail had been worked out in advance. The critic regarded the oils as too preplanned and stale, but thought that Hopper’s watercolors, on the contrary, showed discovery happening all the time. I take solace in that.

Today, I have been alternating my painting with my reading. I have no choice. The decision made to engage in an Andrew Wyeth-style technique of dry brushing winter grasses means, for me, layer upon layer of masqued weed lines followed by progressively darker washes, along with toothbrush-spattering of masquing fluid and pigments. I also combine the sprinkling of salt and stale breadcrumbs. While doing these activities, I make intermittent swipes of weed patterns, using graphite pencils and X-acto knife and pocket knife. This is an all-day affair because of the length of time required for drying between layers of experiments. With temperatures outside in the thirties, the watercolor paper is not drying very quickly, and I have never been fond of standing with a hair dryer to speed the process.

So, I pause for long drying periods to read, and Friedrich Schiller has been a most favorable intellectual companion. I’ve been reading his letters about aesthetic education, and frequently return to Kant’s The Critique of Judgement to get a better handle on some of the categories Schiller mentions in passing. I am finding this reading very engaging as well as challenging. And I feel like the charicature of the mad scientist as I explore these layers of color and texture and look continually at enlargements of this reference photo to figure out how to capture these nuances of nature. These sentiments led me to return to the pages of Goethe’s Faust and now I enjoy them as I sit beside the fireplace, absorbing its warmth during this winter season.

I have burrowed deeply into this landscape and am enjoying the study and exploration. My three areas of focus are the horizon structures, the network of dead tree branches and the endless woven patterns among the grasses.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll check out my blog www.davidtrippart.com

Shultz reducedI 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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Entering the Portal of a New Year

December 30, 2016

door-friday

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

As 2016 slowly slides into a chain of memories, I’m happily painting my way into a New Year, hoping to make new discoveries. Returning to this watercolor begun last week has not been without its interruptions and now that I have a couple of days left before this holiday ends, I’m glad to come face-to-face with the composition, yet feel somewhat lost and out of practice.  I suppose the momentum broke. I paused late into this evening to re-read a book by Hemingway that I have always loved. This passage I’ve cited is one of my favorites. The setting is Paris in the 1920s when the young Hemingway was seeking his literary “voice” and seething in self-doubt. I love this soliloquy and have claimed it as my own. Yes, I’ve done this kind of work before and I shall again. All I have to do is begin with the simple, honest strokes that I have known for decades. To me, drawing and watercoloring can be simple and direct. Upon that foundation I’ll return to form, I’m confident. I love the subject I’ve chosen this time, and am looking forward to entering through this new portal and seeing what happens when I come out the other side.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone. 

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Rubbing the Cold off the Object

December 30, 2016

door

These great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences.  Anyone who creates for effect –to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

N. C. Wyeth, final letter to his son Andrew Wyeth, February 16, 1944

Finally, after a considerable hiatus, I am delighted to re-enter my studio.  It has taken a few days to get over the weariness generated by a drive from St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth following my holiday visit with family. It takes me longer to hit the reset button following those long drives than when I was younger.

The watercolor has gotten cold on me since I left it last week.  But I have been excited to return to it, and am confident that the warmth and confidence will emerge once I give it a few strokes. I am painting this composition for my own pure pleasure, and thus the “commission pressure” is not present. And I’m not painting it with a market in mind; I just want to explore this subject that has been residing in my mind’s eye for quite a long period now. Hence, the quote from N. C. Wyeth above. I did not realize until later in life that I received far more joy and fulfilment in the making of art than in the attention or selling that followed. As my holiday draws near its close, I’m delighted, in this quiet studio, to pursue what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ll continue to post blogs as the painting runs its course.

I wish all of you an exciting and promising New Year.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Portals

December 13, 2016

portal

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

With one week of school remaining before Christmas holidays begin, I was delighted this morning to be seized with the inspiration to begin a new series of work I will call “Portals.”  I have studied with interest Robert Motherwell’s “Open Door” series as well as the motif used in Henri Matisse.  As I look toward the New Year, I’m thinking of new horizons, or new portals of discovery for artistic expression and I took some time this afternoon to research my blog through the months of October through December 2012 when I first began painting vintage doorknobs. Over past years, I have collected a number of vintage doors, doorknobs and locking plates and plan to begin a new series of watercolors on these subjects this winter.  All the ones I’ve painted from the past have sold, and I’m excited at the prospect of beginning this new series.

The above painting was finished over the weekend at my favorite retreat, several hours outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  Dear friends of mine own an old general store that is not in business, but still has a residence attached to it..  They have been gracious in allowing me access to this dwelling over selected weekends, and I thoroughly enjoyed my restful, quiet stay this past weekend.  The door separating the storeroom from the residence was one of my subjects for study the last time I stayed there, and I managed to complete the work this time.  This afternoon I took the painting to a frame shop to be custom framed and I’m excited to see how it looks when ready.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Afterglow of a Wilderness Retreat

November 13, 2016

rocking-chair

That’s me, in a rocker, in a secluded place three hours from my home

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned from my country sanctuary.  I spent another precious weekend watercoloring inside a general store where I was privileged to reside as a guest. While working and looking around at the grocery items from decades past, I kept hearing in my mind the following script from the motion picture Pollock starring Ed Harris. The painter had just moved to Springs, Long Island to escape the madness of New York City.  The proprietor of the local grocery had this to say to Pollock the first time he shopped in the store:

You're the fella moved into the old Quinn place.

              Morning.

              You moved out from the city?

              I don't blame you.

              In a world where they can split a tiny atom...

              and blow up hundreds of thousands of people...

              there's no telling where it's all gonna lead.

              Best to find a quiet place...

              do what you have to do.


The morning following our presidential election, I returned to work and was surrounded with teachers and students wanting to discuss the election’s outcome.  This was a conversation I did not wish to engage. I took ill, and in the following days called in sick, and by the weekend decided I needed to retreat to the country.  The healing balm offered by this special place and my special friends has far exceeded my expectations in providing needed rest, quiet, recharged spiritual batteries and recalibrated ideas for my future.  I can return to work tomorrow, grateful for the past few days of peace.

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Reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau

After an exhausting three-hour drive, I found myself extremely sleepy early Friday night, so I turned in early.  Waking without an alarm at 6:48, I felt refreshed, rose and made breakfast and coffee, hiked to a neighboring pond to fly fish awhile (caught only one bluegill on a popper, but managed to catch an additional seventeen bass by the time the weekend ran its course), then sat at a bedroom reading desk looking out a pair of French doors across a sun-washed pasture.  Turning to the Journals of Thoreau, I read the following:

I require of any lecturer that he will read me a more or less simple and sincere account of his own life, of what he has done and thought,–not so much what he has read or heard of other men’s lives and actions, but some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land,–and if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me,–describing even his outward circumstances and what adventures he has had, as well as his thoughts and feelings about them.  He who gives us only the results of other men’s lives, though with brilliant temporary success, we may in some measure justly accuse of having defrauded us of our time.  We want him to give us that which was most precious to him,–not his life’s blood but even that for which his life’s blood circulated, what he has got by living.  If anything ever yielded him pure pleasure or instruction, let him communicate it.

I needed to read that.  Having taught for three decades, and in recent years posted to a blog, I have always second-guessed how much quoting of others vs. how much personal stuff I should communicate to anyone willing to listen.  My life has been stirred by what I have read of those who have traveled this life before me.  And daily I seek to record my personal visions.  But when it comes to blending the two, I’m never sure, and I guess I never will be.  At any rate, I appreciated Thoreau’s sentiments, because I’m always fearful of putting out blogs that offer nothing more than navel-gazing.

store-shelf-in-progress

Rising from my reading, I returned to the main store counter and looked among the cans, bottles and packages on the shelf, trying to decide what to paint first.  I chose this section, hoping that the bright red Coca-Cola ad would draw immediate attention to the painting, and then hoping that the coffee tin and bottle adjoining would support enough detail to satisfy the curious eye.

store-shelf

As usual, I spent a good part of the weekend perusing Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches, and decided to leave this one as a vignette.  It is approximately 9 x 12″ so I’m seriously considering putting it into the Fort Worth CAC 9 x 12 show two days from now.  They allow us to submit up to six unframed original pieces and they price them at $100 each.  This sketch just might be able to find a home there.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it, grateful for the memories it exudes.

My friends also have a chuckwagon parked in a nearby barn, and have furnished me the keys the section where it is parked.  For a couple of years, I have wanted to attempt sketches of it and finally worked up the nerve Saturday afternoon to visit the barn.

chuckwagon-in-progress

Just as inside the store, I found difficulty narrowing down the pletora of ojects to just a few.  After all, I have to return to work on Monday, and I knew I could not paint the entire scene in one day.

chuckwagon

This one I have not finished, but took plenty of reference photos in hopes that I can complete it in my studio at home.

Late Saturday night, I was too wired to sleep, filled with good feelings about all that had happened during the day–fly fishing, painting, reading, journaling, sitting in a rocking chair and staring across beautiful landscape.  So I returned to the front of the store and began a sketch of one of the old doorknobs and locking mechanisms on the main door connecting the store to the residential section of the building.

doorknob-in-progress

Retiring to bed finally around 1 a.m., I thought I may sleep till noon.  But I awoke at 5:40, feeling rested and energized to make something else happen before loading up and making the three-hour trek back home.  After breakfast, coffee and more quality quiet reading time, I returned to the store and worked further on the painting.  It still isn’t finished, but I took a good close-up reference photo of the details and will certainly finish this one.

doorknob

The weekend in the wilderness has done everything I wished for, and more.  I think I’ll do O.K. returning to work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Warming to the Christmas Holiday

December 19, 2015

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I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end.

But I do not talk of the beginning or end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now, 

And will never be any more perfection than there is now.

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Today marks the first day of my two-week Christmas vacation, and I regret that I am observing it with my second nasty sinus infection this season.  Today marks the fourth day of the corruption.

At any rate, I scraped together sufficient energy to spend the day working on a watercolor commission and doing basic chores about the house.  Now that the sun has gone down and I’ve lost my natural light, I lay the watercolor aside and pursue my passion, reading and writing in the journal.

While painting today, I played a couple of DVDs about the Beat Generation, and felt a rush from their energy.  Much as those writers did in their day, I tire of the antiseptic environment that surrounds me daily in the public school sector.   I shared with one of my classes recently the quote from N. C. Wyeth about how education frequently levels the students: “We are pruned to stumps, one resembling the other, without character or grace.”  All I can hope for my students is that they understand their creative growth depends on many factors outside the classroom walls.  My own educational experience gave me the essential tools to expand my horizons, but the creative urge came from a different source.

library painting

Last week, I worked on a commission for the City of Kennedale, near where I live.  I chose not to post this watercolor image before the city delivered it to the recipient–a librarian who was retiring from service.  I failed to photograph the finished work, and now it is out of my hands!  The finish work included considerable darkening of the foreground grass, some fall trees to the right of the clock tower, and toning down the overall redness of the brick building.  I also added consierable mass to the tree limbs at the top of the composition, as well as more clusters of dead leaves.

winter tree

I have also made about ten more 5 x 7″ tree drawings that I’ve been pricing between $25-40 (matted with 8 x 10″ around the outside).  Drawing has proved relaxing, especially with the way things have gone the final three weeks of school leading up to the holidays.

winter tree & fence

This particular drawing was purchased by a dear friend this past week.  I’ve appreciated all the encouragement offered by friends recently, and really look forward to more opportunities over the holidays for making art.

Thanks for reading.

Painting into the Holiday

November 23, 2015

imageI am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but I am interested in art as a means of living a life.  It is the most important of all studies, and all studies are tributary to it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

After nearly two weaks of a nasty sinus infection and demanding school schedule, I am delighted to emerge intact, and most grateful for this opportunity to pick up the brush again!  When I feel sick to the point that I cannot use my eyes, life is so bleak, and the past two weeks without art and reading were dismal.

On a recent road trip, I experienced a moment described about our famous painter Edward Hopper–it was often said that he would pass by a subject worthy of painting, and, a few miles later, would turn his car around and go back to the location, so powerful was the lingering mental image of the subject. This happened to me.  An abandoned tire shop alongside a quiet highway arrested my attention, and I drove a good five miles before turning around to get back to it and take some pictures–I felt that the structure just bristled with stories. Photographing it from a multiple of angles, and so grateful for the bright sunlight, strong shadows, and cold bracing weather, I determined that I would begin studies of this as soon as I felt sound in mind and body again.

The holidays are approaching, and I decided not to wait until Thanksgiving to get out the watercolor supplies.  This is a small study–approximately 8 x 10″ in size, but I kicked it out in half a day today and am itching to begin another.  It feels splendid to be sketching again.  I have worked exclusively in Texas coastal subjects since my artist-in-residency last summer.  I’m glad to return to this nostalgic strain once again–it’s been awhile.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Thoreau Saturday

August 29, 2015

image“Home” means so many things. On the most basic level it’s simply a location, the place where one lives. It’s also the physical structure, the house or apartment that is home. Last, home refers to the environment that’s created inside that structure, a world-away-from-the-world offering refuge, safety, and happiness.

It’s this last idea of the home as sanctuary that’s absent from most thinking and decision making about technology.

William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Saturday could not have come sooner for me. The first week of school was exhausting, but successful, and by the time Friday evening arrived, I saw the weekend as a luxurious gift. I spent hours in a comfortable reading chair last night, enjoying my journaling and reading, while looking up occasionally at my recent artwork tossed all over the sofa across the living room from me, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

I am loving this book by Powers that I have nearly finished reading. The current chapter is over Thoreau, and how he fled the modern telegraph and railroad sensations to live quietly in Walden woods. I feel that my home is an escape from the daily flood of data and deadlines that harry me throughout the school weeks. Home offers shelter in the evenings and weekends, and a chance to feel that I have gotten back to my real life. Reading this book has been a godsend, because the author discusses ways to keep social media from driving your daily agenda, hence taking over your life. Since I started reading it, I have become painfully aware of how much time daily I have given to facebook, texting, email, blogging, etc. and less time to reflection over what I actually want to do with my life. The book has been a precious gift, and William Powers has offered us genuine spiritual wealth in his writing.

Recent 20 x 24" Laguna Madre Watercolor in Progress

Recent 20 x 24″ Laguna Madre Watercolor in Progress

Today, I am hoping to go deep into this painting that I started this past week. Daily I feel the call that it puts out to me, and I want to engage in growing it to its fulfillment.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.