Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

Searching for the Recipe

March 13, 2020
Fourth Beginning of a Ransom Canyon Composition

He was alone, and he wanted to make a song out of the colored canyon, the way the women of Torreón made songs upon their looms out of colored yarn, but he had not got the right words together.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

This Native American sage just painted with accuracy and grace my perrenial dilemma as an artist. In painting, in writing, in arranging music, I frequently marvel at the complexity of composition, and very seldom attain the splendrous vision my eye or inner ear senses.

When playing my guitar, I constantly reach for the correct chord, only to hit upon a diminshed form that jars my ear. When writing an essay, I can fumble with a paragraph of sentences for an hour and come away with a mess comparable to a ball of yarn tossed by a generation of cats. And now more recently, with my fourth attempt at a canyon composition, my eye delights in the arrangement of hues and contrasts across the cliff wall, yet the colors on my palette never seem to combine for the composition I seek.

Please reader, do not misunderstand–I am not depressed or upset as I write this. I merely approach the creative task in a spirit of worship, seeking to pour out my soul in response to profound beauty encountered in this physical world as well as the underlying world of Ideas. And as I work at this, my soul wells up in gratitude for feelings experienced during the effort, even if the final product falls short of the expression I sought.

My work, my art, my journal pages, my blog–all my contributions are abstractions, distortions, fragments, ostraca scattered across my life’s memories. But my delight always lies in the trying. And right now, the canyons of west Texas and streams of the Oklahoma mountains are calling out to me.

As for the painting started above . . . not today. This morning once again finds me on the road, stopping at a Starbuck’s to send out this missive via wifi. I often feel like Eddie Albert from Green Acres, climbing up a utility pole in Hooterville to make a phone call. But there it is . . .

Thanks always for reading. I hope to send pictures soon of painting attempts adjacent to Oklahoma trout streams.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Next Show Draws Near

March 11, 2020
Return to Ransom Canyon

To be an artist is to live suspended above the abyss between recognition and artistic value, never quite knowing whether your art will land on either bank, or straddle both, or be swallowed by the fathomless pit of obscurity. We never know how our work stirs another mind or touches another heart, how it tenons into the mortise of the world.

In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity. How, then, is an artist to live with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world, and go on making art?

The quote above I have lifted from an older post of Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” dated March 24, 2019. She nourishes my soul twice a week and I seldom miss reading her extended meditations. This praticular one came on a good day: I am kicking into a higher gear because I have an art festival in a little over a week. And though I love making art, I cannot help wondering while engaged in this enterprise whether or not the work is truly worthy. I have little trouble selling my pieces and for that I am eternally grateful. Yet still I muse over the quality of the art.

Palestine, Texas will kick off its annual Dogwood Festival Friday night March 20 with a V.I.P. event under the big tent across the street from The Redlands Hotel. I have been included among the artists selected to exhibit under the tent that night and all the next day. When my first spring festival rolls up on the calendar, I scramble to frame and package all the work I have created throughout the winter season. Currently I have six new paintings framed and ready that have not been offered for public view. In addition to this, I have revised and re-branded a select number of my greeting cards that I sell at events.

In the midst of this scramble to create and market new art, the ideas expressed in Popova’s quote do not cease moving within me. In fact, this morning’s scene at my writing table appeared quiet and serene. But there was nevertheless a subterranean surge of words, images and ideas flowing beneath the outward scene. The readings from N. Scott Momaday only get better, and last night I happened upon a copy of his House Made of Dawn, the first novel to earn the Pulitzer Prize for a Native American. This literary work is gripping from the very first page, and I am now about fifty pages into it. At the same time, I am continuing my sojourn through Momaday’s The Man Made of Words.

After several hours of framing, packaging, editing greeting cards and reading Momaday, the sun was high enough and temperatures reached the sixties. I had the itch to return to Ransom Canyon and begin a fourth work in plein air.

Beginning with a bluff on the left
Stopping with the outdoor work and preparing sketches for the right portion

I found the canyon quiet and peaceful despite the multitude of houses scattered over the bluffs. After working about an hour, I had done enough to the left side of the composition to shut down and head back to the house. I have several ideas for Native American subjects to place on the right side of the composition, and that is my next step. Meanwhile I have stopped at a neighborhood Starbucks for refreshment, Wi-Fi, reading and blogging.

Thanks for reading. Please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Kiowa Centaurs

March 9, 2020
2nd attempt at painting a Native American (in progress)

A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.

N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain

3rd attempt at painting a Native American (in progress)

My blog has fallen silent in recent days due to my recent absorption into Native American images. This all began in Ransom Canyon around Feb. 25 and I posted a pair of blogs describing my feelings as I attempted some plein air sketches in the base of the canyon.

Ransom Canyon has been completely reshaped into an enormous subdivision, and my attempts to paint the more scenic bluffs are rebuffed by the realization that I would be stepping onto some homeowner’s property if I attempted to set up an easel and paint. Parking is another issue–where do I put my vehicle when the road has no shoulders? There is, however, a “memorial chapel” built in the heart of the complex with about 4-5 parking slots, so I have been able to park and hike on public land, and set up the easel on church property, so far without anyone raising complaint.

As I gazed at the canyon walls and imagined what it must have been like 500 years ago when Teyas Indians roamed this geological marvel in search of buffalo before confronting Coronado or aggressive Apache tribes.

My imagination while painting led me to the writings of N. Scott Momaday, a writer I had known about since the mid-1990’s but never bothered to examine. I read The Way to Rainy Mountain in its entirety, and am now about halfway through The Man Made of Words. What I read about the Kiowa migrations from Yellowstone to western Oklahoma fired my imagination, inducing me to attempt a few watercolor sketches of an Indian on horseback on the canyon walls I painted.

Initial attempt of Native American on horseback, 14 x 11″ framed–$200

As I read the accounts of the Kiowa migration, I drew frequent comparisons to what I’ve been studying with Homer’s Odyssey and was inspired to resume work on my own memoir.

In a few days, I plan to travel to Broken Bow, Oklahoma and, weather permitting, engage in some plein air studies of that region. As I paint those surroundings, I anticipate writing the section of my memoir that engaged with Choctaw descendants when I was in the sixth grade. And hopefully I’ll come up with some more images to pursue in watercolor. The Native American tradition I have never touched with my art until now. This is completely new to me, and I feel an excitement with the new discoveries pending.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Late Night Meditations over Ransom Canyon

February 25, 2020

Working on the Canyon

Monday afternoon handed me the freedom to load the Jeep and find my way to Ransom Canyon, Texas in search of a plein air subject. I was not disappointed. Ransom Canyon appears to be the west Texas answer to California’s Laurel Canyon—a scenic gorge inhabited 500 years ago by Teyas and buffalo before Coronado came to visit, with Apaches soon to follow. No one knows for sure what became of the Teyas. Today people with money have built very expensive homes to crown the canyon crests. But I did not journey here to admire the houses; I soon became lost in the colors and textures of the rocky slopes beneath the stately homes, for awhile forgetting that I was standing on the floor of a suburb.

Finding shade in the 70-degree afternoon, I alternated my time there between sketching a section of canyon wall and reading Emerson’s “History” from his Essays: First Series. After about ninety minutes, I had done all I could on location and returned to my dwelling place. An early-evening nap managed to turn my Circadian rhythms upside down, so I now find myself at 12:08 a.m. in front of my laptop, searching for words to encapsulate what exactly happened over the past couple of hours.

I love playing solitaire (with real playing cards, not on the computer). Sitting down at the table around 8:00, I surprised myself by winning the very first hand dealt. When that happens, I know my options fall between wasting several more hours trying to win again, or simply putting the cards away and looking for something else to do. Choosing the latter, I drew out this afternoon’s sketch from my book bag, stared at it awhile, then chose to push further into the composition. As I worked, the textures of the canyon wall began to take on the characteristics of an aged human visage, the grasses becoming facial hair and the gravelly banks the craggy, sun-scarred skin. The longer I worked with pencil and brush, the more lost I became as the 8 x 10” surface took on the dimensions of the forty square yards of terrain I had studied in the afternoon light. Transferring the picture I took with my phone to the laptop, I began to enlarge the digital image, zooming in on the crags and shadows of the canyon wall, and discovering with delight more possibilities of developing the composition.

I get the most out of my painting experience when taking frequent breaks, walking away from the picture in progress and burying myself in some kind of significant reading. Re-opening the Emerson essay, I came across words that sent me into orbit:

All literature writes the character of the wise man. Books, monuments, pictures, conversation, are portraits in which he finds the lineaments he is forming.

Lineaments? What are lineaments? In former days, I often cursed my limited vocabulary. But now we live in this Zeitgeist of technological convenience. Reaching for the smart phone, I Googled “lineaments” . . .

Literary: a distinctive feature or characteristic, especially of the face. “I recognized those haggard lineaments.”

Geology: a linear feature on the earth’s surface, such as a fault.

How serendipitous, to read from this old sage exactly what I was doing with pencil and brush! Lineaments. The usage of this word peaked in the 1850’s around the time Emerson was finding his voice in the essay. And now, in this unusual hour, I have picked up the word and am now running with it as I study closely the features embedded in this canyon wall, experimenting with ways to translate them onto my watercolor page. As I work, I see the porous complexion of a native American hunter, scanning the horizon for buffalo, totally unaware of an impending encounter with Coronado or the Apache. As I continue to work over the entire composition, I am finding just as much joy with sharpened graphite pencils as I am with the watercolor brushes. I draw awhile, then paint awhile, then return to drawing, all the while carving new lineaments into the paper surface and weaving threads of color in and out with a rigger brush. Working over this expanse of rock, I feel as though I am part draftsman, part weaver and part sculptor.

. . .

A few hours of sleep have managed to replenish my energy, so now I sit next to the fire with coffee and the painting before me, propped for me to study it yet again before resuming. Temperatures have plummeted into the low thirties this morning, and the high is not projected to climb above the forties. So . . . it seems unlikely that I’ll return to the canyon. If I finish this 8 x 10” piece today, I may start another, using the reference photos I took of the terrain yesterday—not my favorite way to paint, but still preferable over standing in the frigid cold.

Last night proved to be an enchanting experience for me, and I am happy to share it with you.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Into the Canyon Again

February 23, 2020

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I think a painting is undigested if you leave it in the state of just chaos. I like that first, wild impulse to be there, underneath, but pulled back into clarity.

Andrew Wyeth

Saturday, the sun came out at intervals, so we decided to travel to Caprock Canyons State Park in Zavalla, Texas. Temperatures were mild enough that jackets were no longer necessary, and with only 30-45 minutes before the sun dropped behind the ridge, I set up quickly and enjoyed sketching out a piece of the canyon at its inmost location (the final turnaround point for driving). Moving back and forth between pencil and brush, I alternated between drawing and painting on this 8 x 10″ stretched paper. The short time proved to be even shorter as I enjoyed meeting a family who had just moved from Seattle, Washinton to west Texas. The father was a painter who had made some plein air attempts in his past and was serious about returning to the practice. I also enjoyed the small dog, Patches, that made the trip with us. He was walking with Sandi on a trail fifty yards below where I was perched. The dog, looking up, saw and recognized me and decided to scale a cliff to reach me, then return to his master.

Once I finished playing with the dog, I spent about ten more minutes on this piece before the sun dropped, leaving the entire horizon in a subdued sea of gray. Today, looking at it with fresh eyes, I recalled Andrew Wyeth’s preferred practice of beginning a composition with quick, loose strokes, then later returning to refine it. This reminded me of William Wordsworth discussing the practice of writing poety in Lyrical Ballads. He wrote that poetry begins with passion outpoured, then concludes with judgment studied.

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Yesterday Evening’s Beginning, on Site

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Today’s Continued work, in the Studio

Tomorrow I plan to look at the piece a third time and decide whether or not to push it further or just leave it and move on to the next adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz on website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Waiting for the Train

November 9, 2019

Sedona 4

Newest Greeting Card of my Sedona Series

Ten new greeting cards have just been processed, and while waiting for the Union Pacific Big Boy to arrive in Palestine, Texas today, I thought I would start rolling them out on my blog. I began a series of twenty 8 x 10″ watercolors of these red rocks in Sedona, Arizona and formatted six of them yesterday for my 5 x 7″ greeting cards. I print these on Hallmark card stock and insert them with their envelopes in nice Clearbags. The cards are blank inside and have my written thoughts on the back:

Sedona Splendor

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

John Muir

Words defy my deepest feelings when I stand on the bare ground of this magnificent land and gaze with awe at the towering peaks of the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. Standing at my easel, I breathe prayers of gratitude as my eyes move all over this silent sculptural portrait gazing back at me with seeming encouragement and approval.

David M. Tripp               (817) 821-8702

http://davidtrippart.com

(blog) https://davidtripp.wordpress.com

Today promises to be an exciting one. The Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 is scheduled to arrive in the Palestine train yards at 2 this afternoon and stay till 8 tomorrow morning. All my life, I have envisioned this iron horse shaking the ground with its tonnage and belching steam into its surroundings as it pulls into a town. Soon, I will get to see it with my own eyes. I’ll be set up with my plein air easel, hoping to capture a decent image of it in watercolor and pencil.

Stay tuned.

Union Pacific “Big Boy” 4014 Arrives Tomorrow

November 8, 2019

big boy 4014

Union Pacific Big Boy Restored

Friday night has arrived and I am tucked in for the night in Palestine, Texas. Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., the restored Union Pacific “Big Boy” #4014 will arrive two blocks from the Gallery where I am privileged to hang my hat. When the big moment arrives, I will have my plein air easel set up to see what kind of work I can accomplish, sketching this big behemoth in watercolor with steam blowing everywhere. The locomotive will stay until 8 a.m. Sunday.

Out of the eight Big Boy locomotives that exist today, only this one is in operation, having been just restored after nearly six decades of retirement. Before service ended, the locomotive had traveled over one million miles. I have seen two of these models, in the transportation museums of Frisco, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri. This 4-8-8-4 engine is over 85 feet long, and has an axle weight of  nearly 68,000 pounds. The driving wheels are 68 inches in diameter.

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My Father standing next to a Big Boy in St. Louis

Tomorrow promises to be a special day, and I hope to have good things to report. Also, I invite you to check out my new website www.davidtrippart.com, launched just last week.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind muyself I am not alone.

Reaping the Whirlwind

September 23, 2019

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This Watercolor Just Found a Home

Go into Nature raw and simple and just sit quietly doing nothing other than allowing Nature to become accustomed to your presence. Soon enough, often just beyond what you had taken to be the threshold of your patience and perception, Nature steps forward and begins to reveal its features to you.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

Two summers ago, I had a one-day plein air experience that now seems to have altered my watercolor trajectory in a profound way. I was sitting for hours on a cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado, staring at the beautiful evergreens lit by the sunrise. Musing over how exactly I could capture the evanescence of these lovely trees in transparent watercolor, I thought over what I had learned about sixth-century Xie He’s “canons” of painting. Briefly stated, he pointed out that the artist’s aim was to capture the spirit or movement of the subject.

I immediately began experimenting with numerous panels of stretched watercolor, combining masquing, pouring, splattering and dripping of the pigments. As I worked, I was joined by some cute critters.

bird on painting

Feeding chipmunk4

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A New Attempt at Evergreens

Today I decided to go after the evergreen subjects with some new ideas for experimenting. All day, my mind has been in a whirlwind as I’ve thought up new techinques and approaches, filling several pages of my journal. It feels good when the mind and imagination begin percolating new ideas and approaches.

I wanted to take a moment and share the paintings I worked on yesterday at the Queen St Grille. It was a great experience, and I am grateful for Jean Mollard’s invitation to paint there again.

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I’m painting well into the night tonight, which is unusual for me. I hope I’ll have more to share tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the rush.

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Finding my Way to the Core

July 21, 2019

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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

What is that abridgment and selection we observe in all spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse?  . . . all the weary miles and tons of space and bulk left out, and the spirit or moral of it contracted into a musical word, or the most cunning stroke of the pencil?

. . .

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

. . .

The power to detach, and to magnify by detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the orator and the poet. . . . The power depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

A quiet, tranquil Sunday afternoon now yields quality space for reflection over a recent vacation across New Mexico and Arizona. Our journey included adventures into the natural wonders of the Sandia Mountains, The Grand Canyon North Rim, the Red Rocks of Sedona, the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon, along with Route 66 visits to memorable landmarks in Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As Hemingway testified that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and could not write about Paris until he returned to the United States, so I acknowledge that I still haven’t figured out how to record in writing or paint my responses to this first visit to the Grand Canyon. While standing and looking out across the North Rim, I felt a visitation that cannot be described, and at the same time realized that I would not be able to complete a comprehensive watercolor of my initial sweeping views. I spent the entire first day walking and looking, sitting and looking, standing and looking, all the while scribbling and sketching in my journal in a state of perpetual wonder . . . and decided to wait until the following morning to rise and walk to the rim and sketch in watercolor my first small study of what lay sprawling below.

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Early Morning Sketch of the North Rim

Rising early, I walked one hundred feet from my cabin to the North Rim, found a comfortable seating position, and made my first watercolor sketch as the sun rose and bathed the canyon below. After about forty-five minutes, I returned to the cabin to spend some time writing and drawing in my journal. During this quiet time, new ideas finally began to emerge and I had a clearer perspective on what I wanted to do.

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Quiet Morning at the Grand Canyon Cabin Writing Desk

Later in the day, while a storm gathered over the South Rim twenty miles away, I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and found another comfortable spot to sit beneath a tree and out of the sun. As the storm moved slowly toward me, I worked on a second quick watercolor sketch of the vista, stopping just as the rain began on the North Rim.

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Approaching Storm from the South

On my third day, I took a seat outside the Grand Canyon Lodge and tried my hand at capturing the calligraphic white lines all over the side of one of the cliffs below where I sat.

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Rock Striations and Unusual Textures Among the Rocks

Not long afterward, I attempted a fourth watercolor sketch, but it is so ugly I choose not to post it. I felt that I had learned a great deal from my first attempts, and later while visiting the Red Rocks of Sedona, I began an additional nineteen watercolor sketches. At the time of this writing, I am still developing them and trying several new approaches that I look forward to sharing with my readers.

Throughout this journey, Emerson’s essays have provided a never-ending source of enrichment for my thirsty soul, and I inserted quotes above from his work titled “Art”. I knew from the start that I could not create comprehensive watercolor paintings while on the move with a few plein air sketches. But I did use the sessions for “information gathering”, and rediscovered the joy of drawing with pencil and pen & ink. I also worked on some new compositional configurations. In good time I will be bringing these out to share with you. Once I get back into my home studio, I plan to work on some larger, more comprehensive paintings of that magnificent North Rim of the Grand Canyou.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Perusing Old Journals and Creating New Paintings

May 12, 2019

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Mother’s Day Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The daemon knows how it is done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (journal entry)

There are large modulations of tone throughout fifty-seven years of musing in the journals, yet Emerson seems perpetually in quest to hear his daemon speak to him.

Harold Bloom, The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime

Waking early on Mother’s Day in the Redlands Hotel, my first thoughts surrounded the question over whether or not I would have a second prolific day of painting. Yesterday, I completed four watercolors that had been started en plein air while I was traveling in El Paso and the surrounding areas. Often when I spend an entire day of painting, I feel somewhat emptied and wasted on the following day and resort to reading and journaling. I don’t expect every day to yield fertile thoughts and visions. Our great American poet Wallace Stevens stated it eloquently:

It is not every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.

Wallace Stevens

Harold Bloom, citing examples from Walt Whitman’s experiences while trying to push out the great body of poetry titled under the umbrella Leaves of Grass nailed the phenomena with these words:

No man, no woman, can live in a continuous secular ephiphany.

Throughout my creative years, I have learned the lesson that there are bursts of creative energy, often followed by moments of quiet restoration. Looking back over the decades, I find a measure of satisfaction that a large body of work has been created, and I am more aware of the prolific periods than I am of the fallow ones. I spent some time this morning reading from my old journals, and came across extensive notes I recorded four years ago from reading the published works of the painter Robert Motherwell, and came across this:

An artist has to be a long-distance runner, and the thing I’m most proud of is my most recent work is as fresh as the first.

As the morning hours passed in the quiet Gallery at Redlands, I felt my urge to create beginning to build, thanks to Harold Bloom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wallace Stevens and Robert Motherwell. Suddenly, I knew what I was going to approach next.

As always, the studio was the space of revelation.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: the Making of an American Giant

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Several weeks ago, I was surprised by the colors falling across some vacant undeveloped land adjacent to a new Kroger store built near the neighborhood where I live in Arlington. On this particular late afternoon, with the weather being pleasantly temperate, I chose to drive to the Kroger store and take a seat in the patio area on the southwest corner of the complex. No one else was seated out there, and I anticipated some quality reading and journaling time with coffee. But as I looked up, I was astonished at the quality of colors the late afternoon sun cast down over the field with the dark horizon of trees in back. I took several reference photos, and next time I was at The Gallery at Redlands, I began three 8 x 10″ studies of this composition. I found none of the three satisfying, and abandoned them.

When I traveled to west Texas and New Mexico last week, I brought the three watercolor sketches with me, and took them out once during the trip to take a closer look. I still felt nothing as I looked at them. Yesterday, I spent the day in the Gallery working on the four mountain sketches I had begun during my travels. This morning, I went out to the Jeep and retrieved the three “Kroger” paintings, and after about an hour of reading my old journals along with some new reading from Bloom, Emerson, Stevens and Motherwell, I suddenly had an idea for the three discarded paintings. They are wildly experimental, but I have posted them above and believe I will go ahead and put mats and plastic sleeves on them, and maybe even frame one of them, it’s still too soon for me to decide.

At any rate, I’ve had a great Mother’s Day in the gallery/studio and feel like quality time has been enjoyed.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.