Archive for the ‘sea shells’ Category

The Call of the Island

March 10, 2016

Having dashed out a quick watercolor sketch of the morning seascape with as much deep color as possible, I then turned my attention to a bag of assorted seashells that Dinah Bowman had gathered and presented to me the day before. They had been hanging overnight from a hook on the front porch. Taking out a few and pushing them around on a white sheet of watercolor paper in the bright sun, I delighted in the strong shadows cast by the small forms, and felt that I had returned to the discipline of closely-scrutinized still life disciplines.

Lifted from my Laguna Madre journal from June 2015.

Tripp painting number 16

My Second-to-Last Day at the Laguna Madre Field Station

Village Beneath the Lagoon $425

“Village Beneath the Lagooon”

The past several mornings I have awakened to those recurring feelings of being on the island again in the Laguna Madre. Next week I will be privileged to take a group of watercolor artists back to that location for a two-day, overnight plein air watercolor workshop, with the anticipation of reliving those sensations of breathing that air and feeling those breezes. I am posting the pictures above, celebrating my shift from the macrocosm to the microcosm–I had painted and repainted the vistas of cloud-clogged skies with shimmering blue salt water underneath and scattered foliage and sands in teh foregrounds. The sketch above was my first still-life attempt, looking intently at a collection of shells and finding a different kind of delight as I thought of life beneath those waters–a life that only showed its remnants in broken homes.

Thanks for reading.

Thinking Across the Boundaries

October 6, 2015

image

The border line is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.
Paul Tillich

While students in A. P. Art History were researching and writing in their reflective journals about the fin-de-siecle era of art history, I scratched out some quick sea shell sketches, while thinking back over my recent Laguna Madre visit. Looking up at a quote from Paul Tillich taped to my cabinet in the front of the classroom, I found my mind moving from Tillich to the lagoon environment to the issue of thinking, and wrote the following in my journal (I’m repeating it now, in case the photo is bad or my handwriting illegible):

While thinking back on the Laguna Madre experience, I found the littorals separating sand from the hypersaline waters an interesting metaphor. Paul Tillich always claimed that his knowledge was gleaned “on the borderline” that separated disciplines. I can make the same claim for myself. I have always been absorbed deeply by the arts, literature, philosophy and religion, but many times did not enjoy the actual classes that were taught by those who seemed to know nothing except the subject they taught. Now as a public school teacher, I hear the administrators stressing “writing across the curriculum”. Well, how about “thinking across the curriculum”? I detest the bell schedules and passing periods when they become barriers separating the subjects. I believe that students can gain genuine knowledge and insight in those borders that link the subjects. When studeents enter my art history class, I do not want them to think that literature, science and math are now closed. Thinking should transcend the borderlines imposed by learning institutions.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to relax and think.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Drawing Slows Things Down

October 5, 2015

image

With drawing, you really slow it down.
Juliette Aristides, Lessons in Classical Drawing

The weekend was a whirlwind, with sixteen hours of driving to and from Corpus Christi, then rising at 6:00 this morning to resume classes at school. Though exhausted to the bone, I would not have traded away my weekend. The shrimp boil at the Laguna Madre Field Station brought out many people, and I enjoyed meeting so many new friends during the afternoon.

Approaching the Island

Approaching the Island

Partying on the Island

Partying on the Island

Though I returned today to a stressful grading deadline, I managed to get through the chores, and this evening to slow things down and resume drawing. One of my new friends at the Laguna Madre gave me a handful of shells from the shores of the island, and I was thrilled to sketch one of them on Sunday morning before leaving to return to Arlington. Tonight, while listening to an instructional DVD that came with Aristides’s book, I appreciated her soothing opening words about how drawing slows things down in our frenzied world, and I cleared away a spot on my desk, adjusted my lights, and got out the new assortment of shells and drawing materials.

We find many ways to slow down our world. If I could split my life into several pieces, I would be reading a book, writing in my journal, working on a drawing, and watercoloring–all at the same time. Tonight, I decided it will be drawing, and the hours have already become sweeter.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to slow down my world.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

No Time to Paint, but Always Time to Think

September 30, 2015
watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

His skies, whether pure or cloudy, gay or melancholic, resonate with the mysterious sounds of the universe. He forces the spirit to think and to soar above these magisterial representations . . . of reality . . . In front of this seductive painting, you have the impression of a full and benevolent life which makes you recall the intoxication one feels with the dawning of a new day.

Desiré Louis, L’Événement, May 19, 1891, (writing of Claude Monet’s paintings)

This week, I have been jammed by school responsibilities, but cannot take my mind off of painting. I got behind in my school work preparing for last week’s festival and now there is the devil to pay. I am hoping to be caught up by the end of tomorrow. The studio has been calling my name, and I have had to turn my back. But I cannot turn my back on thoughts of painting.

At school the past two days, I have taken time between classes, over lunch, and during conference periods, to do some serious reading on French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. My subjects have been Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. The above quote I lifted from a nineteenth-century publication, loving the rhapsodic discussion of his clouds. This brought to my memory the exhilaration I felt when I surveyed the cumulo-nimbus clouds that hung suspended all day every day over the island in the Laguna Madre where I stayed for a short while last June. Before those days, the only attempts I had ever made at rendering clouds were quick, slap-dash happy washes and blots on my watercolor paper. I was racing toward the main subject, which was always something in the foreground, and the sky was just a nuisance to get out of my way as quickly as possible. All of this changed with my arrival at the Laguna Madre, where I attempted my first “cloud portraits”, actually devoting the majority of my time on rendering the cloud formations I saw hanging in the sky. And once I returned to my home in Arlington, I continued to study the photos I took on location, making new attempts to paint these remarkable portraits. The artist-in-residence experience has changed me profoundly in many ways, and this is just one of them–my taking skies and clouds far more seriously in future paintings.

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

I should like to astonish Paris with an apple.

Paul Cézanne

This quote from Cézanne brought a smile to my face, when I was painstakingly arranging and rendering sea shells and lagoon debris while on the island. I never had serious designs of astonishing Arlington with sea shells, but I found myself in a state of suspended wonder as I worked and reworked these shells. I found the flowing lines and contours very challenging as my “errant hand” (Cézanne’s angry words!) continued to stumble at drawing them. And then, there was the issue of modeling them to “pop” into that three-dimensional form appearance on the page. None of this came easily. Finally, the words from Cézanne came home to me:

There is neither line nor modelling, there is only contrast. Once the colors are at their richest, the form will be at its fullest.

Thank you, Claude and Paul, for being such kindred spirits, and for being such a comfort to me in this century. The greatest joy I know in painting is feeling this connection, this succession in a tradition of painters, all of us struggling to get nearer to our subjects.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Focus

August 19, 2015
Pre-Dawn Drawing and Thinking

Pre-Dawn Drawing and Thinking

Of the mind’s many aptitudes, the most remarkable is its power of association, the ability to see new relationships among things. The brain is the most amazing associative device ever created, with its roughly 100 billion neurons connected in as many as a quadrillion different ways–more connections than there are stars in the known universe. Digital devices are, in one sense, a tremendous gift to the associative process because they link us to so many sources of information. The potential they hold out for creative insights and synthesis is breathtaking. The best human creativity, however, happens only when we have the time and mental space to take a new thought and follow it wherever it leads.

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

Waking at 4:40 this morning in the predawn darkness came as a surprise, as well as a reminder that I had retired to bed early last night, exhausted by the past 48 hours of work-related activity. Returning from my restful two-week St. Louis vacation, I plunged immediately into the headwaters of new semesters at Texas Wesleyan University and Martin High School. After two days of meetings and conferences on both campuses, I collapsed and slept very well last night. So, refreshed and unable to return to sleep, I stretched, smiled into the darkness, rose and headed for the shower.

Rapturous solitude has enveloped me the past two hours, and I am smiling inwardly, knowing I still have two hours before my first meeting today. Coffee, sketching, reading and journaling have managed to combust some energy and enthusiasm for this new day. I now sense the percolating coffee pot as a metaphor for what my brain is doing. And drawing a sea shell has been relaxing, helping me ponder over things that matter in my life.

This book was given to me as a surprise gift over the weekend (how timely, just as school is beginning!), and I cannot say enough about how it has seized my attention in the richest manner. Throughout my adulthood, I have believed that a creative life demands solitude and a controlled focus that filters out distractions from a myriad of sources demanding attention. From my graduate school days, I have been excruciatingly aware of the difficulty of thinking and maturing ideas when deadly schedules filled every hour of every waking day. I was told that it would never get any better, and that I must learn while still in school to get control of this. I was told the truth. At age 61, I can honestly testify that my life has never slowed down, that work schedules and appointments have always demanded attention, and I never found a way to add a 25th hour to the daily schedule.

Six years ago, I added something to my daily work schedule: I took up this blog about the same time that I purchased a smart phone. Since then, every day, this phone has jangled to get my attention that something is happening somewhere–email, text message, phone call, private message, facebook, blog response–and I responded as failthfully as possible until I found myself in a spot where I worried that if I skip a day posting on my blog, I would become irrelevant. The digital age had managed to take over my life. How serendipitous for this book to arrive now, at the fulness of time.

William Powers does not trash our new technology. Rather, he argues that it serves us best when we create space for the richness of a “connection” to sink in, to take root in our lives, rather than clicking on to the next response, the next, and the next, etc. He’s right. The richness of a creative life evolving is still right there for the taking, but it requires some time, some quiet, some space, some slow down. And the digital obsession can crowd out creative expression just as effectively as a crowded social schedule, or working too many hours at jobs. Thirty-five years ago, I learned that I would think better and perform better as a graduate student if I would set aside a quiet time and space to sort out my thoughts and write reflectively, instead of cramming in one or two more books for research and footnotes. It became imperative to stop and let the ideas compost so they could flower into something precious. Today, I seek ways to turn off the digital machine periodically so I can sort out the gifts presented to me and see if I can find a more creative way to express these ideas and images, and so enrich my world and ours.

Thanks for reading. I’m not sure where this new insight will take me, but I trust it.

I make art in order to focus.

I journal always when alone.

I blog, knowing I am never really alone (and I like that).

Not a Sunday Painter, Maybe a Sunday Draftsman?

August 2, 2015
Sunday layered shell drawings

Sunday layered shell drawings

First Sketch of a Hard Head Catfish Skull

First Sketch of a Hard Head Catfish Skull

hard head catfish

hard head catfish

The life of a wise man is most of all extemporaneous for he lives out of an eternity which includes all time. The cunning mind travels further back than Zoroaster each instant, and comes quite down to the present with its revelation. The utmost thrift and industry of thinking give no man any stock in life; his credit with the inner world is no better, his capital no larger. He must try his fortune again to-day as yesterday.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Finally I have worked up the nerve to draw and paint the skull of a gaff top sail catfish, popularly called “hard head catfish”. Dinah Bowman found this skull along the shores of the island where I stayed and did my residency last month. I tried to paint it in a still life arrangement on my last evening at the island, but was really fatigued and unsatisfied with what I did. Finally this afternoon, I took a long look at the complex textures running along the surface of this bone, and thought I’d give it another try. The drawing was a pleasant experience, so I immediately stretched some watercolor paper and went to work on it as soon as it was dry. I have heavily salted the background of the skull and will need to let it set up and dry over a long period of time before working on the actual subject.

Reading Thoreau during the drying time was another pleasing experience. I am down to his final day on the Concord and Merrimack boat trip, and particularly enjoy his take on Goethe’s genius. I’ll have more to write about that (hopefully) in a future blog. For now, I’m pondering his comments about wisdom as an art of steering one’s life through these waters, bringing the past into the present. I’ve read these ideas from other great minds, but love his literary spin on the idea.

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.

Rapturously Absorbed in Thought on a Sunday Morning

August 2, 2015

Sold my first reproduction of this seashell and algae watercolor!

Drawing a Shell on Sunday

Drawing a Shell on Sunday

Sunday drafting table

Sunday drafting table

Contrasting the man of true religion with those who, with jealous privacy, would fain carry on a secret commerce with the gods, he says:–

“Haud cuivis promptum est, murmurque humilesque susurros

Tollere de templis; et aperto vivere voto.”

It is not easy for every one to take murmurs and low

Whispers out of the temples, and live with open vow.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Intriguing that I think and post these matters on a Sunday. Decades ago, I was in the pastoral ministry, and when I left it, I was admonished that Sunday mornings would prove dreadful for me, waking up with no place significant to go. Not true, as it turned out. Though much in my life has changed since those days (and whose life hasn’t changed, evolved throughout the years?), two things remained: 1) I possess an active inner self, that I sometimes label as Romantic. My feelings run deep, and I clear out as much time as possible in my daily life to find a quiet sanctuary for reading, reflecting and writing in my journal. In former days, I found inspiration only in the Bible and commentaries; now I find it in literature, art, philosophy, music, nature–in a myriad of sources. And every daily pause for those reflective, private moments is worshipful, an act of prayer. 2) I still have to express these important matters of the heart. I used to do that one day a week before a congregation, later I did that five days a week before students, now I do it daily through a blog and encounters with people I meet in the everyday world. It is still a religious odyssey filled with daily discovery and expression. And my life thrives on it.

This morning, after spending a satisfying span of time in communion with Thoreau through his astounding words, I looked up at a drafting table flooded with the morning light, selected yet another sea shell from my Laguna Madre days, and set to work rendering it with a differerent set of pencils: a #2 Papermate Mirado Classic, a 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph and a third pencil I have not picked up in years: a 9B Grumbacher Woodless pencil, and then an 8H Derwent pencil for scribbling indentations into the surface of the paper, and then skating softer pencils over the top to reveal the scribbles. I don’t know how long I spent lingering over this shell, because I was listening to amazing guitar music by Leo Kottke and just swooning over the sounds emerging from his slide guitar. All I know is that a significant amount of time has passed, and I still have chores waiting, so I guess that I will now tend to those, refreshed, energetic and in the mood.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Second Attempt at Layered Drawing

July 31, 2015
Layered Pencil Drawing

Layered Pencil Drawing

The hour is getting late, but before retiring to bed, I thought I would go ahead and post this second attempt in layering pencils of different hardnesses. I feel I’ve entered a strange new territory in the realm of art making, and am excited over the possibilities.

Thanks for reading, and for all your encouragement.

Revised Wednesday on the Laguna Madre

June 17, 2015

Note to readers: The following is what I wrote one week ago while on the island, but was unable to post on the blog.

W E D N E S D A Y

Media Day at the Laguna Madre Field Station

The Dawn of Media Day

The Dawn of Media Day

But what does all this scribbling amount to? What is now scribbled in the heat of the moment one can contemplate with somewhat of satisfaction, but alas! to-morrow–aye, to-night–it is stale, flat, and unprofitable,–in fine, is not, only its shell remains, like some red parboiled lobster-shell which, kicked aside never so often, still stares at you in the path.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 5, 1838

Rising refreshed at 6:10, I pulled on my clothes and wandered out behind the field station to take a picture of the eastern horizon. After taking the photograph and looking at my phone, I discovered such a backlog of blog and facebook posts, that I felt a compulsion to answer every single one, and it took a full thirty minutes. Then, taking time out to read from Thoreau’s Journal, I smiled inwardly at the piles of journal pages I’ve piled up since 1986, wondering how many of them are good only for starting fires this winter when the fireplace is ready. I found out that the media would be arriving between 10:00 and 11:00. I went ahead and began laying out a composition for the fire wheel flowers I have been practicing throughout the week, hoping to accomplish more of the Albrecht Dürer discipline.

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Boats moved up and down the lagoon throughout the morning, each containing one or two occupants. When I looked up and saw with surprise a boat filled with nine people, I figured it must be my guests for the morning. As it slowed to approach the dock, I walked the distance from the field station to the end of the dock. A videographer already had a giant camera trained on me, and others raised their 35mm cameras and smart phones and began shutterbugging. I felt quite overwhelmed by all of this; there is no way to explain their enthusiasm and hearty greeting, and the effect it had on me.

The Media Arrives

The Media Arrives

The morning was like a press conference with interviews on TV (it was the NBC affiliate from Corpus Christi, KRIS-TV) and recorded for the local newspaper (The Caller-Times) and university communications department. Every single person was a ball of enthusiasm, filled with ideas and good words. I could have stayed all day with them, and was sorry when time came for them to leave. I photographed the boat pulling away, and they were photographing me, still!

http://www.kristv.com/clip/11598233/artist-paints-laguna-madre-part-of-new-program-at-tamucc#.VX9XGZV6Mc1.wordpress

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wr03ZJB84TI&feature=youtu.be

http://www.tamucc.edu/news/2015/06/061115%20Dr.%20David%20Tripp%20.html#.VXnajXoo7qB

Once the media departed, I felt more charged than ever to paint. Finding a better quality watercolor paper among my stock, I decided to stop using the Utrecht brand paper I had been using up to this point (a quantity of it had been given me), and went back to my old stand by: D’Arches 140-pound paper. As soon as I laid in the flat wash of a sky, I knew my problem had been solved. There was also no problem in lifting out the wet color for cloud effects with a cotton towel and Q-Tips.

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Dinah Bowman, a well-known local artist in the Corpus Christi area who was the main driving force behind securing this Artist in Residence position for me, gathered shells and brought them to me so I could try some close drybrush study of them as well. For years, I had admired the Andrew Wyeth seashore studies executed during his summer months in Maine. This would be my first time to attempt painting seashells, the remains of a crab, and a discarded fishing lure.

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

As the sun sunk low and the sky and land filled with warm colors, I decided to try one more plein air study of the lagoon on the south side of me.

South Side Laguna Madre

South Side Laguna Madre

The day had been satisfied beyond description. Night is coming on. Time to lie down to sleep before it gets too dark to find my way to the bed.

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.