Archive for the ‘garage studio’ Category

Autumn Return to the Cave

October 25, 2016


First Night back in the Man Cave Studio

The man who is forever acquiring technique with the idea that sometime he may have something to express, will never have the technique of the thing he wishes to express.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit


Studio Drawing and Debris


More Studio Art and Debris . . .


. . . and even MORE STUDIO DRAWING AND DEBRIS!!!  (guess it is time to tidy up!)


Sketchbook Pages from my recent Festival

tree-bentOne of my Preferred Sketches


Experiment with a Variety of Pencils

The fall routine of school has overtaken me to the point that I cannot seem to find quality time for painting, and scant time for sketching.  I have however managed to participate in a major art festival and have another coming up quickly.  In addition to a few tree sketches, opportunity has also presented itself to do some serious museum study, as the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has just opened up a major Monet exhibit featuring his early works.  Three visits to that exhibit have put me back in the mood to fight for studio time.


Relaxing at the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth after seeing the Monet exhibit at the Kimbell

With the fall temperatures dropping ever so slightly (Texas is so screwed up, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s daily as we close out October), I have managed to re-enter my garage and clear out two years’ worth of debris that filled in my Man Cave to the point where I could no longer work in it.  Tonight I sat down for the first time with charcoals and worked on some sketches of a woven fishing creel that I picked up a couple of years back in an antique store.  The surge of artistic desire returned, and I have now planned a weekend of plein air painting, thanks to this precious garage/studio time.

This evening, I have much on my heart for which I am thankful.  The school year is off to a better-than-usual start, and aside from some bureaucratic debris that crowds the schedule more often than it should, I can at least say that I am enjoying my students immensely, and I love the subjects I am teaching.  The same may be said for my college class.

I am also happy to feel the sentiments expressed above by Robert Henri.  For years throughout my artistic endeavors, I have fretted over technique, always thinking I had too few tools in my toolbox. At my current age, I now am convinced that making art (for me anyway) is much more centered on the feelings and emotions swirling about my subjects than on the techniques I employ in trying to render them.  Tonight in the Man Cave, I didn’t worry about how the creel was looking on my paper.  Rather, I reveled in the feel of the cold charcoal between my fingers, the smooth surface against my hand, the sound of the charcoal dragging across the rough paper, and the haunting words emerging from the Robert Frost documentary that was playing in the background as I sketched.

I am sixty-two years of age, happy to be closing out my third decade of classroom encounters, and extremely grateful that I still have the strength to pursue this daily and still draw sustenance from the educational dynamics.  I still thirst for knowledge as much or more than I did in graduate school days, read prodigiously, and cannot scribble enough pages in my personal journal.  I am now sketching with the pencil more than I ever have before in life, and finding abundant joy in this as well.  Once the weather cools some more, I will enter the countryside and watercolor en plein air, and experience the rush that that activity has always brought me in the past.

This evening I read with great pleasure Walt Whitman’s poem “Eidólons” from his Leaves of Grass collection.  In true Platonic fashion, he argued that behind every physical fact and wish we pursue, there lingers that spiritual perfection, always more than what we seek to attain.  This led me to think of all the phantoms I chased throughout all my life, all the disillusionments I suffered when I felt I had failed in reaching my ultimate goal.  A person could waste an entire lifetime seeking those things that remain out of reach, or worse still, attain to something, only to discover that it diminished once possessed.  When that happens, a person often gives chase to yet another eidólon.

At this stage of living, I am extremely grateful for health, for employment, for a home, and for time to explore and enjoy the arts and scholarship.  I’m happy that a school pays me to learn, pays me to share what I learn, and affirms my attempts at creation.  Life is good.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Knowing When to Stop, Even After You’ve Been Drawn In

November 9, 2014
Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

The essence of this whole artistic enterprise is to focus your attention on what caught your attention in the first place. Respond to what is yours.  Your truth.  It doesn’t matter the subject matter, or the style.  You must strip the thing back to the basics of what you feel about your response.  What is the kernel here that you want to express?  Get to the foundation  . . . 

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Well, this Sunday evening closes with a surprise.  After days of assembling a still life, staring at it from all angles, making adjustments, then attempting several charcoal sketches of it, today I decided to do a small watercolor sketch of just the Maxwell Coffee tin perched on the edge of the old chair.  I had decided to let the complex composition delay awhile longer, and fully expected to fiddle with this small watercolor until the middle of the week.  This afternoon, I felt “drawn in” by the subject, chuckled to myself and decided I may stay up awhile tonight, past bedtime.  Surprise–around 6:30 I stepped back from what I had done and decided, That’s It.  Done.  I can always begin another tomorrow.  But for now, I’m just going to study this sketch and figure out what to attempt on the next endeavor.

Below I’m posting a photo I took of the piece in the middle of the afternoon:

Sketch in Progress

Sketch in Progress

And finally, the studio environment in which this piece was incubated:

studio complete

This has been a satisfying day.  I think I’ll read awhile now.  Thanks for reading me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Life Measured Out in Coffee Spoons

November 9, 2014
Preparing to Watercolor in the Man Cave

Preparing to Watercolor in the Man Cave

For I have known them all already, known them all: 

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,      

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

This Sunday has offered unparalleled leisure for me.  The 38-degree morning was cold enough to convince me not to emerge from beneath the quilts at 6 when my alarm went off.  Instead, I stretched and dozed a few more hours, then rose and treated myself to Belgian waffles, blueberries, bacon, juice and coffee.  It has been at least three years since I got out the Belgian waffle iron, and I hope to put it to good use during these approaching cold months.

The garage studio was still cold when I entered it, but I put on some layers and split my time between reading T. S. Eliot, Joseph Campbell, William Carlos Williams and studying the still life before me.  Finally, I decided to work on a small watercolor, using stretched 140-lb. paper about 10 x 14″.  After a week of looking at the objects, sketching them in charcoal, and thinking about the subject from a variety of angles, I decided to focus on the derelict Maxwell House coffee can against a dark background with a shock of the red-checkered table cloth showing.  This is taking plenty of time, because I’ve been working on a series of layered washes, letting each one dry completely before covering with a new wash.  I started with Transparent Yellow, then Aureolin, then Alizarin Crimson, then Winsor Green, then Winsor Orange.  After a few hours of letting those layers dry, and laying down washes inside the can and to the left of the can, I decided to work on some details.  I have a small portion of the red-checkered cloth started, as well as the colors on the coffee can.  I’m in no hurry.  I’ve spent a good part of this day listening to Andrew Wyeth interviews on a VHS tape, and am enjoying his insights.

Taking My Time on this Small Watercolor

Taking My Time on this Small Watercolor

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

In the Sanctuary of the Man Cave

February 8, 2013

Tripp painting

Tripp Painting in the Man Cave

Good afternoon!  I’ve been hitting the watercolor hard this Friday afternoon.  However, it hasn’t changed enough from what I posted late last night to justify a fresh picture of it, so I thought I would try shooting myself working on it (after all these years of owning this digital camera, I finally found the timer so I could set the shutter on a 10-second delay, then rush to take my seat in the picture!).  I tried to train my cat to photograph me, but he isn’t too bright.

I am lowering the values in this painting now, and that is coming along very slowly.  The skillet has been darkened considerably, and I have managed to darken the armature of the lantern.  Now I am skinning up the doors, trying to give them the look of abused, paint-peeled surfaces exposed to the elements for decades.  I am about ready to paint the suitcase below.  But again, there really isn’t much to show you, yet I wanted to post on the blog before I get to late into the evening.

I am happy that the weekend has arrived, and hope to dive into some quality reading and painting in the studio.  I have James Joyce on the mind, thanks to the Joseph Campbell lectures I’ve listened to on video.

Thanks for reading.

Final Art Studio Posting of 2012–Watercolor Still Life Still Growing

December 31, 2012
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. 

Karl Barth, letter to friend Edouard Thurneysen dated March 17, 1920

What an amazing age in which we thrive today!  The above fragment is from a letter sent by one Swiss pastor to another.  They lived on opposite sides of the mountain and traveled once or twice a week to see one another for hours of conversation.  Between visits, they sent letters almost daily back and forth.  In this letter, Barth paints in words the picture of a day in his study where he worked furiously on a lecture and the smoke from his pipe never ceased.

Well, today, the water and pigment in my watercolor brush never ceased or dried up.  And as I painted alone in my Cave, I was inundated with phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and Blog comments from dear, dear friends and associates, all of them kindred spirits.  Thank you, I love you all.  You made this day very, very meaningful.  I can close out 2012 and move with confidence into 2013.  You’ll never know what a Gift you gave this day.

I have posted my last picture for this year.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening tinkering with the Maxwell House coffee tin, the stove top percolator, the Texaco oil can and the kerosene lantern.  Of course, I continued to play all over the rest of the composition–the darkened background, chips in the paint on the doors, the locking plate, the Mobilgas sign, the frying pan.  I work all over the composition, even while focusing on one key object.  And all of it was just as grand as the conversations I enjoyed with friends.  I can retire to bed happily tonight, thank you again.

Thanks for reading.  All of you have made me even more enthusiastic about blogging my painting experiences.


Leaning into the New Year with Renewed Watercolor Resolve

December 29, 2012
Still Life in the Man Cave

Still Life in the Man Cave

Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.

–Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance

I have returned from my St. Louis Christmas vacation, spent with Mom, Dad and siblings.  I was privileged to have my son accompany me from Austin on the trip to and from as well.  The white Christmas was beautiful, travel was safe, and I’m glad to be back in my Man Cave for the next chapter.  I’m caught rather flatfooted, realizing it is already December 29, and I have yet to record a single New Year Resolution in my private journal.  I take those seriously every year, and for the life of me cannot figure out why I have yet to think these through.  Perhaps later today.

I have been in the Man Cave since about 8:30 this morning, when it was 23 degrees outside.  Now, at 10:00, it has warmed up to 33, and with layers of  clothing along with a space heater, I am making out quite nicely here.  I have posted a photo taken last night of my drafting table, tilted and positioned in front of the still life that I began assembling before I left for St. Louis.  I am choosing to work on a 28 x 22″ composition, and am thrilled to the bone to be attempting this.  Throughout yesterday evening and this morning I have drawn, erased, re-drawn, erased, re-drawn, constantly working to get the proportions and details right.  I firmly believe that the success of this large watercolor is going to depend on the strength of the drawing, and I am determined not to do it halfway.  So, I continue to revise, often feeling like Willem de Kooning, who didn’t hesitate to scrape off three hours’ worth of painting and start over.

I am nearly finished with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and am enthralled with his work ethic and discussions of the discipline of writing.  Those remarks are giving me the impetus I need to push ahead in my studio and crank out the paintings, believing in what I do.  The objects I have selected for this arrangement all have Proustian “ghosts” lingering about them.  I’m not ever sure if I’m on the same page as the Imagist writers and their philosophy “No Ideas but in Things,” but I certainly feel an inner compulsion to go after this still life arrangement.  I have checked out two more Andrew Wyeth volumes from our local public library as well.  I know there is much gold to be mined there as well.

There are two or three additional watercolor compositions I have churning about in my head, so I could very well be starting some additional works before this day comes to a close.  Once I actually start pushing watercolor pigments around on this enormous paper before me, I’ll certainly be posting those pictures as well.  I’m excited to be back on task.

Thanks for reading.

Meditations from the Man Cave

May 15, 2012

A Voyeuristic Peak into the Refurbished Man Cave

For over a year, I have made jokes about the “man cave” in my garage.  My space contained no sofa, no refrigerator, no wet bar.  In place of power tools and a pool table, I had a pair of small drafting tables pushed to the center, a director’s chair, and all my watercolor supplies.  During the scarce temperate months of Texas, I enjoyed retreating to the garage “studio” to make art, and thus called it my “man cave” with the disclaimer that there was nothing to photograph of my surroundings to post to the blog.

All of that changed over the weekend.  With the addition of an antique drafting table, measuring 4 x 7′, and using my antique doors to enclose this new space in the back of the garage, I have managed to carve out a new environment better suited for what I like to do when I’m not at my day job.

Temporary closure walls for the Man Cave

If I were a student in today’s public school, I would probably be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder.  I chase too many interests.  Friends who have admired me have labeled me as a Renaissance Man, assuming I was multi-talented.  I wish that were accurate.  In reality, I am multi-interested.  I probably have too many interests, too little focus.  My new studio is a reflection of that.

I love to create art.  I love to read.  I love blogging on the computer and writing in my daily journal (Lord, I have over 110 volumes of journals, going back to the late 1980’s).  I have loved scholarly research since graduate school days.  With my library in place, I now have an excellent space to pursue these studies in art, literature and philosophy.  I love music, especially the blues, and playing my guitar.  I’m delighted now to have a space that allows me to explore all these venues.

A portion of my library moved to the Man Cave

Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell remains one of my intellectual and artistic heroes.  For years, I have perused photos of his studio and library.  He was a scholarly man, conflicted throughout his life between painting and writing for publication.  He had majored in painting during his undergraduate years at Stanford, then turned to Art History and Philosophy during his graduate studies at Harvard.  General history paints him as a man who dropped his academic research and became an Abstract Expressionist painter.  That is not accurate.  Throughout his illustrious career, he continued to pursue scholarly endeavors and write for publication.  He was a prolific writer as well as painter.  I have read The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell as though they were scripture, equally amazed at his fertile mind along with his paintings and collages.  Though criticized on the one side by editors, and on the other by galleries, he nevertheless pursued those two avenues throughout his creative life.  The monograph on Robert Motherwell titled With Pen and Brush also chronicles his dual pursuits in these venues.

My life would be simpler if I had only two pursuits–watercoloring and writing.  But life isn’t that simple for me.  To these pursuits I must also add writing in my journal, listening to music, playing my guitar, reading for pleasure, studying for research and writing lectures for classes and public discourse.  Every day, all these venues clamor for my attention, as I dress and pack my bag to spend yet another day earning my living, teaching in a public school.  And, as readers of my blog well know, my public school exercise is not one of quality, by quantity, daily checking the appropriate boxes of required tasks fulfilled: teaching Art I, Philosophy, Humanities, Regular Art History and Advanced Placement Art History, maintaining a grade book, and keeping tabs on whether students are wearing their I.D.’s complying with dress codes, and behaving themselves.  Quality teaching went out the window a long time ago, when there were fewer subjects to master, fewer and smaller classes to maintain and fewer legislative hoops through which to jump while flapping my arms like a chicken.  Now, my daily routine involves little more than documented baby sitting or herding cats.  So, I come to the school to earn my living, but enter the studio to carve out a world of ideas and art.  The latter has succeeded the more in returning to me a sense of dignity and meaning.

Keeping a journal puts me in company with artists such as Eugene Delacroix and Paul Gauguin, and essayists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  It keeps my thoughts and pictures out in front of me, fuels my daily fires of inspiration.  My journals are maps for organizing wonder.  And, like my blog, my journals are first drafts, beginnings of thoughts, ends of thoughts, never pretending to be published gems.

Journaling and blogging are my lifeblood.  I journal when I am alone; I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Thanks for reading.

Carving out New Studio Space in the Man Cave

May 13, 2012

Man Cave Reformation

I didn’t retire to bed till around 3:00 a.m., I was enjoying so much the adrenaline that comes with a new project.  Of course, I’m a little sluggish today, because this “project” has taken on a life of its own, and has found ways to extend!  I was sure that my new garage/art studio/man cave would be finished yesterday.  Now, I’m convinced that it won’t be finished today either.  Sigh.  But I am enjoying the process, so I guess that counts for something.

Some wonderful friends gave me a precious gift of a vintage drafting table, 4 x 7″ and fully operational.  Late last night, I got it dragged to its current location, and then slowly began building my studio around it.  What I cannot squeeze into this photo yet (I’m a poor photographer) are the antique doors (seven of them) that have enclosed this area into a nice intimate space for making art, reading, journaling, eating, watching TV and listening to my stereo.  Today Anita Baker is serenading me from her Rapture album that I have on vinyl.

Breakfast the first morning in my new, emerging studio

The  morning started on a terrific note.  Even though I retired to bed around 3 a.m., I slept soundly and awoke without an alarm at 8:00.  I took my time making breakfast, and then decided to enjoy it in the new studio, with the garage door up and the beautiful cooling breezes filling the space.  I also took time to look over yesterday’s plein air sketch of the Ellis County Courthouse.  I now have some ideas of what to do in order to finish this up and sign it.  But I can honestly say I’m conflicted between making art and continuing to putter around, arranging the furnishings of  this emerging studio.  To close on a sad note–this is Texas, and I am fully aware that by the time this studio is ready, that I’ll have to abandon it until September.  Texas suburban garages are not places to work in the summer months.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday All Day in the Watercolor Studio

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Sunday

Good afternoon.  Saturday came and went without watercolor pursuit.  I was privileged to participate in a fundraising event at J. Gilligan’s Pub in Arlington.  I donated a limited edition print for a silent auction, and my band played a short gig.  That pretty much wiped out my Saturday.

Today, however, I got to spend most of the time in the garage studio.  I worked on A. P. Art History for quite a few hours, re-arranged my studio, then redirected my energies toward this full-size watercolor.  I worked all over the composition, so I cannot isolate a small area for detailed analysis.  Today I did windows, foliage, fire escape, rusticated stone work and various assorted details.  The painting is starting to tighten up in detail, and it’s time for me to make some compositional decisions before it gets out of hand.  I’m starting to get lost in it again.

I’ve decided to walk away from it for a few hours, and just may return to it tonight.  If I do, then I’ll probably post a blog once more before bedtime.  My companions today (besides my watercolor buddy and bandmate David Slight) have been Albert Collins and Robert Johnson.  Again, Blues make fro great companionship in the watercolor studio.

Thanks for reading.

Saint Ignatius in the Pre-Dawn

April 19, 2012

Saint Ignatius in the Morning

Good morning!  I entered my garage studio at 6:05 and went directly to work on the portion of this watercolor posted above (about 25% of the overall composition).  It didn’t take me long to get lost in the upper-story right window.  Most of my pre-dawn was spent there and on the perimeter (fire escape, chimney and rusticated exterior of the building overall).  I’m still having fits with the fire escape shadows.  I have wanted them to have a purplish cast from the start, but so far I am not satisfied with the colors coming out, and I’ve altered them several times already.  Oh well.

My companions (aside from my cat, Kramer) have been Robert Johnson and Lonnie Johnson.  I enjoy playing vinyl when I’m listening to Blues music.  Robert has held my attention most of the morning with Kind Hearted Woman BLues and Rambling On My Mind.  The guitar work astounds me every time I listen to him.  Lonnie, on the other hand, lends quite an interesting jazz strain to his guitar that I find mesmerizing as well.

It’s 8:02, and I still have to shower and dress for today’s Field Trip.  I have to arrive in front of my school by 9:00.

Thanks for reading.  I plan to return this afternoon and push this watercolor further down the path.  I’m finally getting a rhythm back, and can’t wait to resume work on it.