Archive for the ‘Mississippi River’ Category

Nostalgic Tugs

February 23, 2016

Our Town

Nice town, y’know what I mean?

Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.

Stage Manager speaking of Grover’s Corners in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Laying aside the odious task of grading and compiling figures over the past several days, the acts of drawing, watercoloring, reading, thinking, conversing with dear friends and journaling my thoughts have emerged with more sweetness than ever before, it seems.

Back in 2009, I embarked on a long road trip that took me down many memorable paths, one of them being Highway 79 in Missouri. I passed through Winfield just as the sun came up, and paused to photograph this magnificent facade of a building bathed in that warm summer light. Now, in 2016, I am drawn back to this subject, because a former resident has found me online and shared some fascinating stories of its history and her own experiences growing up in it.

I am posting the Thornton Wilder quote, because I feel that that is the common sentiment of people assessing the significance of their own small towns, as well as the sentiment of the outsiders looking in. Personally, I have no interest in fame embracing any Winfield residents; I am just enriched when I hear the stories that are so real and worth recalling. The stories echo the sweetness of what I knew in my own small towns throughout the years of my youth.

As this picture develops, and others of the same subject along with it, I plan to pass on some of the stories handed to me about this quaint Mississippi River town that reminds me so much of the small towns I knew in southeast Missouri when I visited relatives during the years of my growing up.

Thanks for reading.

A Loving Tribute to a Story-Teller

January 2, 2016

fieplace

Uncle Paul Holds Court

On this New Years Day 2016, I’ve successfully built and maintained a fire in the fireplace, and have spent the winter morning soaked in primal feelings while gazing into its flames, listening to the crackle and reliving years of memories beside a bonfire, listening to my Uncle Paul.  My father’s older brother always believed that he was better than the life offered him in rural southeast Missouri—a Mississippi River tenant farm culture.  He served in the Navy during World War II, and when discharged in 1945, chose not to return to the farm, but to continue serving the Navy as a civilian for another nine years, living in Guam.  Once that connection dried up, he returned to the United States, but chose to begin life anew in San Mateo, California.  Fancying himself as a writer, he managed to freelance and publish for magazines while opening an automotive repair shop, and then later entered the employment of Greyhound where he worked his way up to night manager, and remained till retirement.  He never stopped writing.

Paul came home to southeast Missouri once a year, traveling free on a Greyhound bus, and taking up residence as a guest in the squat little house of his sister Bea and her husband Bus, overlooking Little Indian Creek rolling by below.  Paul had become a celebrity to the rest of the Tripp clan, consisting of his eleven siblings along with their children and grandchildren, a number increasing to scores of people pouring into that little house.  Paul had developed quite an art to humor and storytelling in the grand manner of Mark Twain.  His snarly, nasal voice sounded like William Burroughs, and Uncle Paul acquired the persona of a sage.  His annual arrival eventually morphed into an event–a bonfire/wienie roast at Bea and Bus’s.  This became the ideal forum for Paul to launch his stories.

Paul’s visits have now commingled with my own special teenage memories of hiking and fishing Little Indian Creek all day and returning to Bea and Bus’s house at sunset, sunburned, with a stringer of bluegill, catfish and memories of the day.  The driveway already filled with cars, I knew what I was going to encounter when entering through that kitchen door: a living room packed with uncles, aunts and cousins, and a cigar-chewing Uncle Paul seated before them all, clutching his can of beer, and holding court with his stories and anecdotes.  And what I noticed from the start is that Paul never spoke to anyone—he spoke to everyone.  Paul never showed interest in engagement; he only wanted an audience.  The evening would always be a sustained roar of laughter, fueled by cases of beer and soda.  Once it grew dark outside, it was time to withdraw to the bonfire and wienie roast.  Uncle Paul was just getting warmed up for his Second Act.  The curtain would always close around 4:00 a.m.

  1. My senior year in high school. My final bonfire with Uncle Paul.  Bea and Bus were older now, retiring to bed at twilight, and no longer tolerant of Uncle Paul’s late nights.  When the day arrived for Uncle Paul to visit, they announced the close of an era.  No wienie roast this time.  No bonfire.  Not here.  We’re going to bed.  Paul arrived around noon.  He was told the news.  One hour later, cars began pulling into the driveway.

“Why is everyone coming?”

“Wienie roast.”

“No!” said Bea firmly.  “Not this time.”  More stations wagons arrived, and Tripps were discharged.

“Where’s Uncle Paul?”

“Down at the creek, cuttin’ limbs for the wienies.”

“No!” shouted Bus.  “We’re not doin’ that this time!”

“Where’s Uncle Ralph?”

“Gettin’ wood for the bonfire.”
“No!” repeated Bea. “We’re not havin’ a fire tonight!  We’re goin’ to bed this time.”

More cars arrived.  Trunks opened.  Crates of beer and soda were unloaded.

“Might as well pack ‘em back up!” drawled Bus.  “We’re not partyin’ tonight.”

“Where’s Denzil?”

“Gone to the store to get wienies.”

“Wienies?!” cried Bea.  “We’re not havin’ a wienie roast!”

The skies darkened.  The fire ignited.  Dozens of Tripps skewered their wienies and approached the altar.  Libations were poured.  Bea and Bus yawned loudly enough for all to hear and ignore.  And Uncle Paul’s stories began.

4:00 a.m.  Everything has grown deliciously quiet save for the sounds of tree frogs overhead and the crackling dying embers of the fire in front.  Paul has gotten quieter, more reflective.  Only a few of us are still there, staring quietly into the fire.

“You have a fine vocabulary.”  Paul was talking to me.  For the first time.  Ever.  “You should write.”

Opening the Fountains

July 8, 2014
Finished the Latest Installment of "My Town" Series

Finished the Latest Installment of “My Town” Series

I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage.

Alexander Pope, Introduction to “An Essay on Man”

I posted earlier about my discovery this morning while reading Alexander Pope’s Introduction to “An Essay on Man.”  Though I find his essay very comprehensive in scope, he regarded it as only a beginning, a first movement, a poetic push at a subject to which he intended to return in greater detail later.  I immediately recognized that this principle could be interpreted on so many levels.  The one that resonated most with me was the nature of drawing and watercolor sketching as a preliminary to larger comprehensive, framed paintings.  Andrew Wyeth dashed off sketches as preparatory pieces for his egg tempera panels.  As for myself, I still have not returned to the world of oil or acrylic painting, and never tried tempera.  I still wish to treat watercolor as a finished work of art, occasionally working on larger 22 x 28″ scales.  With the crush of a summer school schedule, however, I have found solace in these smaller pieces, and have tried to find ways to speed them up in their execution.  I thought the small watercolor posted above was finished last evening, after only two studio sessions.  But today I accepted an invitation to join a group of Bedford artists and work in the studios of the Trinity Arts Guild immediately after I finished summer school.  As I peered into this work, I found a myriad of details that I wanted to pursue, so I took delight in taking up the pencil and ripping through the existing watercolor composition, inspired by something I read from Robert Motherwell late last night:

Painting can overcome one with its seriousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.  But drawing can be as clear-cut as one’s father’s precepts.  Drawing satisfies our sense of definition, even if we cannot define “drawing” itself.  Drawing is a racing yacht, cutting through the ocean.  Painting is the ocean itself.

Robert Motherwell, “Thoughts on Drawing,” 1970

It’s been another good day, in the classroom as well as the studios.  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.

 

 

 

 

He’s No Longer Here

March 18, 2014
Fishing Memories (22 x 28" framed watercolor)

Fishing Memories (22 x 28″ framed watercolor)

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 the 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 that he bought from an old leathershop 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 his 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.

I’m gearing up for a three-day art festival this weekend: Art on the Greene in Arlington, Texas.  I brought back from the Bowman Gallery in Portland my large framed fishing still life watercolor that I plan to install as a centerpiece to my booth display.  Greeting cards of the painting have just been printed, and posted above is the text I just composed that will appear on the back of the 5 x 7″ cards.  I wanted the painting to tell a story, so this is the one I just pulled together.  The story is one that I’ve carried in my consciousness for quite a few years now, wishing that I could write a novel or short story around the old man’s life and travels.  At any rate, I have a small piece to put on the back of a card.  I love watching patrons reading the backs of my cards when I’m selling out of an art booth.  It shows me that they have imagination and interest that go beyond just the images of the art work.

Thanks for reading.  I still have quite a bit to assemble and pack tonight.  The show is just a matter of days away.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Off to St. Louis

September 25, 2012

Sun Rising on Winfield, Missouri

Dear Friends,

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, it will mean that I am without Internet access.  I leave in the morning for St. Louis to participate in the Taste of St. Louis art festival.  Two weeks ago, at Grapefest, I was unable to get adequate Internet access to blog from my booth (I always like to blog onsite at festivals).  So, if the blog goes silent, please understand that I am unplugged.

I am posting a reproduction of a large watercolor I completed last year, that is now at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (www.weilerhousefineart.com).  This print is 8 x 10″ and I have put it in an 11 x 14″ matte with plastic sleeve.  The setting is Winfield, Missouri, a sleepy Mississippi River town sprawled along Highway 79 north of St. Louis.  I captured this image on camera just as the sun was rising, back in the summer of 2009.  I was saddened to see the store out of business, as it featured all the advertising and signage I had loved seeing as a child.

Well, I must get some rest for tomorrow’s road odyssey.  Thanks for reading.

Smaller Framed Watercolor of Antique Store for One-Man Show

May 15, 2011

Smaller Antique Store from Winfield, Missouri

This is my fifth and final post today of the five framed watercolors I picked up from the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).   Bill Ryan, the proprietor of the gallery, does a spectacular job framing, and is helping me get the paintings presentable for my first One-Man Show this September.  Those of you following my blog may recall this painting from January of 2010.  Recently I completed the same composition on a full-size sheet of watercolor paper.  That large painting has also been framed and posted on today’s blog.

Thank you for reading.

Smaller Watercolor Version of the Winfield Antique Store, now Framed

May 15, 2011

Small Watercolor of Abandoned Winfield, Missouri Antique Store

This is one of five framed watercolors I picked up today from the Weiler House gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).  We are preparing for a One-Man Show this fall.  I have now painted the facade of this abandoned antique store along Highway 79 in Winfield, Missouri, north of St. Louis.  Andrew Wyeth continually returned to his favorite subjects for painting, especially in watercolor, and so do I.  The morning I drove past this establishment, my heart nearly stopped.  The sun had just topped the Mississippi River, washing the front of this store in delicious yellow light.  I pulled my Jeep over and too dozens of photos from all angles, wishing I could go inside and peruse the interior.  Alas, it was out of business, and in fact had it been viable, I would have had to hang around four more hours, waiting for it to open.   Nevertheless, I got the same feeling that I do when I view Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, and I’ve always wanted to do a painting of that kind of genre.

Thank you for reading.

Winfield Antiqure Store Finished and Delivered to the Gallery

May 8, 2011

Winfield Antique Store, Highway 79, Missouri

This painting has just been delivered to the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery for framing (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).

It got hot, painting in the garage this afternoon, but I’m glad this job is finished.  The painting has been posted so many times on this blog that I think it best not to repeat myself.  If you would like to know the story behind this setting, please check the other Winfield blogs over the past few weeks.  Thanks to all of you who checked in on this painting daily to help “see it through”!

Thanks for reading.

The Winfield Antique Store along Highway 79

May 8, 2011

Winfield , Missouri along Highway 79

I sincerely hope that this painting will be finished the next time I post it.  It’s had so many postings of its in-progress state that I fear I’m beginning to chase blog readers away.  Nothing new to say that I haven’t said before.  This is north of St. Louis on Highway 79 along the Mississippi River.  Winfield is a very small town, and unfortunately this classic antique store is closed.  I found it early on a summer morning, when the sun had just topped the ridge, lighting the facade with a magical rose glow.  I’ve tried to capture it three different times.  This is my first large painting of this subject (about 22 x 28″).

Thanks for reading.  Again, I hope to post it only once more, when signed and completed!

Still Trying to Finish the Winfield, Missouri Store

May 4, 2011

Winfield, Missouri store along Highway 79

Mercy, mercy me!  I cannot shake loose to find quality time to paint!  Just finished my last college lectures and am preparing to give finals, and high school has a way of accelerating in the final weeks.  I worked on this painting a little last night, this morning, and again this afternoon.  I am covered up with high school preparations for tomorrow’s classes, have fallen behind on grading, yet this painting is no longer whispering from the corner of the studio, but shouting, indeed shrieking for my attention.  And it’s all I want to look at now.  I suppose the only positive thing that I can say is–it appears Icould be finished with this by the weekend.  I would truly like to have it signed and delivered by then.  That is my goal.

The painting is large by my usual standards (about 22 x 28″), and I seem to get lost every time I get involved in rendering the shadows under the awning, or the depths of the interior seen through the windows, or even the wood grains on the carpentry that graces the front of this dying structure.  This morning, I began laying in the lines for brickwork along the left side of the composition, and believe me, I will get lost once I begin the brick rendering.  I love this part of a painting–when I know I am more than half-way to the finish.  That is when the quality of my breathing changes, my pulse slows, and I feel that I have entered another world.

O.K., back to the school work.  Maybe I’ll be privileged enough to return to this tonight.

Thank you for reading.