Archive for the ‘Missouri’ Category

A Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016

waynes-bluff

Wayne’s Bluff

high-ridge-bluff-2

David’s Bluff

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Ron and Dian’s Bluff

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Preparing for the upcoming Edom Festival of the Arts has put me in a satisfying frame of mind. Sorting through stacks of watercolors has floated abundant memories toward the surface of a resistant consciousness–resistant mostly due to fall semester industry.  Most of these memories have been most welcome–memories spanning the splendid summer of 2016.

Pulling three watercolors of bluffs from the stack, I have chosen to name the first one after a friend of mine known since the second grade.  Wayne and I have recently re-connected, thanks to Facebook, and have spent some quality time on Missouri rivers kayaking and fishing. I miss him during the months I live in Texas, as he still resides near my home town in Missouri.

The second bluff I have given my own name.  The memory of that post-Thanksgiving morning of 2015 when I was driving through the rain still stays with me.  The memory is mostly comforting.  At any rate, I enjoy looking at this composition as the location is only about four miles from where I lived throughout my youth.

The final painting I did en plein air while vacationing with my friends Ron and Dian Darr in South Fork, Colorado.  I worked on three paintings in this genre outside their travel trailer as we ate and visited together.  Every time I look at this painting, I recall how delicious times are when spent in conversation with these two kindred spirits.

When I sit in my booth in Edom this weekend, I’ll be looking at these works, feeling gratitude for the generous hand life has extended to me.

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.

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Perpetual Wanderlust

September 15, 2016

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Abaondoned Gas Station on Missouri Highway 36

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Finding myself impounded in a school classroom five days a week, my imagination goes back on the road that I enjoyed so deeply last summer, as travels took me to the Texas coast, to Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.  I started a painting of an abandoned gas station I encountered on Missouri State Highway 36, west of Macon, and watching the watercolor coming into focus over the past week has filled me with the most pleasant memories of that summer trek.

It has been surmised that Edward Hopper was so taken with a particular gas station in the Cape Cod region that he turned his automobile around and went back for a closer look, eventually creating a collection of drawings and a magnificent oil painting.

gas

Edward Hopper, Gas

That was precisely my experience last summer–several miles past the abandoned gas station, I suddenly turned my Jeep around and returned to the location to take pictures and make thumbnail sketches for a future watercolor. In the Hopper painting, I have always been drawn to the dark woods beyond the station at night, thinking of one of Hopper’s favorite poets, Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Even though my watercolor is set in the blazing heat of a Missouri summer at midday, I wished for my woods backing the gas station to have that same dark look as I see in the Hopper painting.

Yesterday afternoon was quite rare, as I had the entire afternoon and evening free to do as I pleased. I spent the entire time bent over this painting, enjoying every piece of the composition as it slowly came into focus beneath my brushes and pencils. I used a good deal of salt and stale bread crumbs to help texture the gravel parking lot and scattered patches of grasses in the foreground. A good, sharp #2 pencil helped me render carefully the details of the frame siding, as well as the windows and doors around the structure, and the ridges in the roof. The continual layering of warm and cool colors in the foliage proved to be challenging, but I’m satisfied so far with how that part of the painting is going.  I’m a little timid about finishing out the clouds, as it’s been months since I played with Q-Tips and grays, and am rather forgetful of what exactly I have done in the past to get the effects I want there.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Suspended between Wordsworth and Pink Floyd

September 9, 2016

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Remains of a Gas Station near Brookfield, Missouri

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Remains of a Passenger Rail Car in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

Friday night has arrived, the week in school has been deeply rewarding, watching classrooms filled with students enthusiastic about pursuing new ideas. Evenings have been given to watercolor activity, and I’ve posted a pair that were inspired by some of my summer travels. Memories associated with these two images are so thick tonight, it seems I have to brush them away from my face so that I can breathe.

Tonight, a deep feeling has overcome me. I’ve returned from a funeral visitation. One of my precious students has lost a father unexpectedly, and her mother is a colleague of mine who has always been a generous resource when needed. Driving home, I listened to “Comfortably Numb” and the words I’ve posted really went deep into my heart. Once I was home again, I dug up Wordsworth verses, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I have felt an intimate kinship with this poet when he speaks of childhood memories that have their ways of sweeping over us during our more pensive moments. And like Proust, he urged that those feelings were worth remembering, even when fleeting, and even when we cannot put our finger on what it is exactly we feel we have lost along the way. Again Thoreau’s haunting words of losing the horse, the bayhound and the turtledove come back to me tonight. I don’t think I’m sad. But something is stirring deep within, and I’m trying to find a way to express it. I’m glad the weekend has arrived and I can walk away from my regular schedule for a couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Studio Sanctuary

September 7, 2016

studio

It is very well to copy what one sees. It’s much better to draw what one has retained in one’s memory. It is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.

Edgar Degas

Finally, FINALLY I am afforded the opportunity to return to the studio! I’m in my third week of a new school year and have managed to do plenty of pencil sketching in my journal the past few days, but I have had an uncontrollable itch to pick up the watercolor brush. So, when I saw a gap in my schedule this afternoon, I charged full-bore into a 20 x 24″ stretched paper surface and have felt such a rush of eudaimonia throughout this afternoon and evening.

My subject I recognize as an abandoned filling station I photographed this summer, I believe in the vicinity of Brookfield, Missouri on Highway 36. About a month or so ago, I did a small watercolor of a brightly-colored restored gas station further east along that same stretch of highway that friends had pointed out to me.

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Painting from last summer near New Cambria, Missouri

My current project will have far less color, just a white frame building with all its signage and pumps removed. Still, the sprawling highway alongside the abandoned structure has such an Edward Hopper kind of feel, and I have always loved his painting titled Gas. 

gas

Edward Hopper, Gas

Most viewers with whom I’ve spoken are fascinated with the solitary man at the pumps. As for me, I’ve always been more interested in the white frame building, the pavement, and a dark forest framing the composition. When I drove across Missouri last summer and saw the remains of that gas station to my right, I knew I had something very near to my recollection of a Hopper composition.

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The evening has also been delicious because of the quiet time and space to work on my art history for tomorrow. With each passing day, I am getting more attached to my students in the three A-Day art history sections. I am trying something new this academic year, and so far I’m pleased with how it is working. For about four years now, I have been hammered by “experts” that collaborative learning is the wave of the educational future, and that we should be forcing the students into such groups to enhance their learning. This is completely counter to the way I learned during my significant years, and cuts against the grain of how I am comfortable teaching. I have heard the scoffers ridiculing the lecture format, referring to it as the Dark Age of schooling. I couldn’t disagree more. For one thing, when I lecture, I continually throw questions out on the floor to engage students willing to engage, and for the most part they are willing. Last year, I almost completely abandoned the lecture format in favor of group learning and discussion, and I found the year among the most dissatisfying in my nearly three decades of experience.

This year I have compromised, working earnestly to cut each ninety-minute class period into collaborative portions, in additon to lecturing portions as well as time for independent work with chrome books or smart phones. Each session still has a thesis, and I don’t lose sight of the goal. But I am very pleased to watch how these classes have developed. For instance, in my last session, our focus was on early dynastic Egypt, and we studied three select sculptures from the day’s unit. And as the three figures were examined, I sought a healthy balance of independent computer research, group collaboration and lecture. And once the ninety-minute period was completed, the students not only were exposed to the historical background and technical vocabulary of those three pieces, but when prompted by me to connect with what they had worked on during the first two weeks, there emerged from the discussion allusions to the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greek art, along with ideas from Heraclitus, Parmenides and Plato. In further discussion, ideas were dropped as well from the lives of Isaac Newton, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. That provided quite a rush for me, and I hope it did for them as well.

It’s been a great week, and I’m so pleased to be making art again. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Ancestral Voices

August 19, 2016

bluff 2

Trying to pierce the mystery with our categories is like trying to bite a wall. Science extends rather than limits the scope of the ineffable, and our radical amazement is enhanced rather than reduced by the advancement of knowledge.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Good morning, Friends. I awoke with the thoughts of the divine Abraham Heschel surging through me. I guess it is nearly time to start school again. And I am ready, spiritually (intellectually may be another matter). Today is Friday, the last assigned day to have our classrooms ready (although we are allowed access tomorrow, if necessary).

Mornings that begin over a watercolor are better than those that do not. Over coffee, I lingered awhile re-reading this magnificent biography by Robert Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire. While reading and allowing my mind to drift, I thought over the collage of role models who have motivated me over nearly three decades of classroom experience: the erudition of Paul Tillich, eloquence of Emerson, wildness of Thoreau, inventiveness of Shakespeare, alertness of William Carlos Williams, confidence of Walt Whitman, daring of Picasso, and more recently the sensitivity of Annie Dillard. I suppose I’m never sure what exactly David Tripp will be as the semester unfolds, but in these later years, I hope I’m not as conscious of that as I am of the richness of ideas, dreams and explorations offered as we enter that arena of education.

This watercolor I’ve posted is a small sketch, approximately 9 x 12″ unframed. I think it may be done, and will probably decide when I get home from school this afternoon. I’m ready to plunge into a larger work, more like 18 x 24″ taking as my subject another of the Big River bluffs my friend Wayne White photographed and sent to me.  Again, I can relive the kayaking experiences I knew this summer with both Wayne and Mark Nelson, grateful that such gifts are still offered in this life.

Time to leave for school, again. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to know.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

They’re Coming, and I’m Ready

August 18, 2016

bluff

The whole secret of the teacher’s force lies in the conviction that men are convertible. And they are. They want awakening. Get the soul out of bed, out of her deep habitual sleep, out into God’s universe, to a perception of its beauty, and hearing of its call, and your vulgar man, your prosy, selfish sensualist awakes, a god, and is conscious of force to shake the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, April 20, 1834

Today the anticipated feeling arrived. Today I rose to enter my classroom, free of any further meetings this week, free to retreat to my classroom, my sanctuary, and prepare for the arrival of students Monday morning. I still have tomorrow, and Saturday, if necessary to finish preparations, and my spirits are rising.

Monday is when the magic may begin. Students will enter my world, my sanctuary, my playground, Room 114 of Martin High School. They are invited to enter my arena of ideas, of enthusiasm, of new beginnings. Art, philosophy, literature, the humanities, the core of human creativity–these are the forces beckon all of us to partake in the Event. As Whitman wrote: “the powerful play moves on, and you may contribute a verse.”

I have been told that my students are lucky to have me. I always appreciate that kind word. But it is I who am lucky to have them. They are the ones who keep me alive. They are the ones who challenge me. They are the ones who ask questions I can never anticipate. The curiosity is epidemic, and they are the carriers, not I. So I look forward to a new year, to new beginnings, to a new hope.

After a week of watercolor dormancy, I am happy that I got to pick up the brush again this evening. My friend Wayne White shot a magnificent photograph while kayaking the Big River in Missouri, and was kind enough to send the image to me. I’m working hard to reproduce the wonders and floods of feelings I get every time I look at this image and remember one of the highlights of my summer vacation. Thanks, Wayne.

And thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Addled

August 16, 2016

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Second Plein Air Sketch from Rolla, Missouri

Curly:  You city folk, you worry about a lotta shit . . . . You all come here at about the same age, with the same problems. Spend about fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope, and then you think two weeks out here will untie them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?  . . .  One thing. Just one thing.

City Slickers

I awoke this morning with this motion picture dialogue in my head. Yesterday was the first day of Inservice as I returned to my high school job. As expected, the day dumped a myriad of details on our heads, and life by last evening was everything but simple. My college job resumes tomorrow. But I’m happy tonight, because all the knots in the rope of my online course got untied today, thanks to timely help again from Texas Wesleyan University’s CETL department–they are always, always there to assist, thank you Natalie and Linda.

A parallel dialogue to Curly’s (minus the profane language) is found in The Gospel According to Luke, chapter ten. In that text, Jesus offers a calming word to a frantic Martha, pointing out that she is distracted over many things, but only one thing is necessary. Both of these dialogues flooded my heart with peace this afternoon as I sorted out school matters, preparing to begin a new year, and remembering what exactly this is all about.

addledAddled

I will never, ever successfully dot all the i’s and cross the t’s that are demanded of me. But I’ll still pour my best into the task, as I have for nearly thirty years. And at the end of most days, I’ll look back, satisfied that I did the best I could with what time and resources I had.

Posted at the top is the second plein air watercolor I began in Rolla, Missouri a few weeks ago with my friend Lorraine McFarland. I suppose I’ll always be enchanted at the site of a stand of pines. I cannot call it “finished” yet, and probably didn’t give it the best of my attention as I was “distracted” on that day as well (story of my life). I was on my way Home when I began the work, but now that I have arrived, I’m looking at it every day, trying to figure out what to do next.  I’ll post it again when it’s finished.

Thanks for reading.

I paint, wondering what I’ll learn next.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, always grateful that I am not alone.

 

The Greatest Poem

August 13, 2016

station new

The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.

Walt Whitman, 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

Good morning, Beautiful People. Aren’t Saturdays luxurious when one is allowed to sleep in, recharge the weary batteries weakened by the week, make coffee and enjoy the silence and space? I wanted to take this moment and post a watercolor I finally completed, a small one (9 x 12″ unframed) of a restored 1921 Shell station in New Cambria, Missouri.  A dear friend from high school had alerted me to its existence, and with difficulty I was able to gain access and take a number of reference photos.  The image has been emblazoned in my mind’s eye for about a month, and I’m glad finally to bring this small composition to its conclusion.

I have posted Whitman’s quote because for months I’ve been hearing a myriad of unnecessary, unpleasant remarks being tossed about on the air waves and social media as this current election runs its bloody course. I love Whitman’s assessment of this country and its beauty in that a number of disparate peoples have been knitted together in a pattern of cities, counties and states to create a United States. I am stirred by that metaphor.

But I am more deeply stirred when I encounter that word “poem” derived from the Greek poiēma and better translated “work of art.” The letter to the Ephesians in 2:10 states “for we are his workmanship” (King James Version), the translation of poiēma. Some translations prefer “handiwork.” I like the idea of you being a poem, a work of art, something splendid that has been created and given as a Gift to this world.

So, whatever happens to you on this day, I urge you to pause and reflect on the magnificent poem that is you.  Unique.  There is no one else like you in this culture, and you are placed here where you can color and enrich those who surround you.  Above all, be a Gift to yourself.  Love yourself.  Take great joy in that you are what you are.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Source

August 1, 2016

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Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri

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Reference Photo for Unfinished Pine Sketches

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

On Saturday morning, my new friend Lorraine McFarland–a remarkable pastelist residing near Rolla, Missouri–led me to the side of a lily pad-infested pond where we set up our easels in the cool morning and looked into the depths of the forest beyond. Surprisingly, the Missouri sun heated with enough intensity to chase us from our spots after about an hour of work, so we had to take reference photos with a vague promise that this work would be completed later. Returning home the next day, I discovered my A/C had quit, and the interior of my house was at 95 degrees. This morning, from yet another hotel room, I at least reside with the gladness of knowing an A/C man is arriving this morning to repair it.

Above, I have posted lines from the latest book that I read with a sense of amazement.  I am only five pages into the text, but I have re-read and re-marked them four separate times already, because I am unable to move beyond; this man’s words are going straight to my heart. I was experiencing these words as I gazed into the forest two days ago, my eyes moving all over the contours of three pines reaching upward through the dense growth, all the while sketching, correcting, blotting Annie Dillard’s “color patches”, and constantly catching my breath as snatches of beauty came and went across my paper just as fleetingly as they did across the highlighted trunks of those pines. For the space of one hour as I labored over this pair of compositional sketches, I realized as before that the forces surging through the artist’s eye and soul never translate onto the painted page. I have come to accept that.  As a guitarist, I still laugh at the story of the master asking his pupil why he was frustrated.  The pupil replied that he could always hear the music better than he was capable of playing it.  The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”

As a Romantic, I am held captive by the Sublime. My expressions always fall far short of my experience, and I just have to accept that.  I enjoy trying, nevertheless.  Every painting, every sketch, every line of words I scribble into the journal are merely footprints, ciphers, eidolon, of what is happening to me as I encounter the Sublime.  My vacation travels have ended, I am home, but not yet Home.   In my soul, I am still journeying, wandering, and the odyssey far exceeds in beauty what I am able to express.

I close with a re-post of the pine tree that greeted me every morning in Colorado as I sat drinking my coffee on the porch.  I do indeed miss those 39-degree mornings, having returned to this triple-digit Texas hell.

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Earlier Sketch of Pine Tree from South Fork, Colorado

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sketching on a Friday

July 29, 2016

daves diner

There are three aspects of nature which command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur.  Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Closing out a sublime vacation has always proved difficult for me. This morning I ventured into an old-fashioned diner for an old-fashioned breakfast. When I stepped outside, the unseasonable Missouri temperatures were suspended at 81 degrees. Without a moment’s hesitation, I fetched my journal and packet of pencils from my vehicle and took a seat on the sidewalk outside, adjacent to the Post Office in High Ridge, Missouri, and sketched a tree stretching over the fence of the property next door.  The traffic swished, the birds chirped, the breeze chased loose leaves and debris across the paved parking lot stretched out before me. And I felt that I was embraced by nature’s grandeur.  Unfortunately the photo above is not sharp, because I cropped it from the corner of the journal where I was writing my most private thoughts.

I was sad to close a three-day chapter with friends I knew from high school.  We laugh at ourselves (old farts) when we gather to kayak and fish the river (the Gasconade this time). But on a sober note, I miss these guys sorely right now-their stories, their laughter, their ideas and above all, the fact that they no longer take themselves as seriously as half-a-century ago.  We are not the center of the world as we thought we were in high school. As it turns out, our parents and teachers knew what they were talking about (most of the time) when they tried to teach us how to live and succeed. I never thought I would be caught talking about “the good old days” but now that it’s happened, I can genuinely say I feel much better about life all around now. Thanks, Mark and Wayne.  I can’t wait till the next time . . .

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fishin 2

I had to lay down the brush a few days ago to make way for the river and fishing. Today I’m just sitting quietly with my reading and my thoughts, glad for the respite from work, and gladder still that school is still a few weeks away.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I’m not really alone.