Archive for the ‘sketching’ Category

Afterglow of a Wilderness Retreat

November 13, 2016

rocking-chair

That’s me, in a rocker, in a secluded place three hours from my home

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned from my country sanctuary.  I spent another precious weekend watercoloring inside a general store where I was privileged to reside as a guest. While working and looking around at the grocery items from decades past, I kept hearing in my mind the following script from the motion picture Pollock starring Ed Harris. The painter had just moved to Springs, Long Island to escape the madness of New York City.  The proprietor of the local grocery had this to say to Pollock the first time he shopped in the store:

You're the fella moved into the old Quinn place.

              Morning.

              You moved out from the city?

              I don't blame you.

              In a world where they can split a tiny atom...

              and blow up hundreds of thousands of people...

              there's no telling where it's all gonna lead.

              Best to find a quiet place...

              do what you have to do.


The morning following our presidential election, I returned to work and was surrounded with teachers and students wanting to discuss the election’s outcome.  This was a conversation I did not wish to engage. I took ill, and in the following days called in sick, and by the weekend decided I needed to retreat to the country.  The healing balm offered by this special place and my special friends has far exceeded my expectations in providing needed rest, quiet, recharged spiritual batteries and recalibrated ideas for my future.  I can return to work tomorrow, grateful for the past few days of peace.

thoreau-window

Reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau

After an exhausting three-hour drive, I found myself extremely sleepy early Friday night, so I turned in early.  Waking without an alarm at 6:48, I felt refreshed, rose and made breakfast and coffee, hiked to a neighboring pond to fly fish awhile (caught only one bluegill on a popper, but managed to catch an additional seventeen bass by the time the weekend ran its course), then sat at a bedroom reading desk looking out a pair of French doors across a sun-washed pasture.  Turning to the Journals of Thoreau, I read the following:

I require of any lecturer that he will read me a more or less simple and sincere account of his own life, of what he has done and thought,–not so much what he has read or heard of other men’s lives and actions, but some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land,–and if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me,–describing even his outward circumstances and what adventures he has had, as well as his thoughts and feelings about them.  He who gives us only the results of other men’s lives, though with brilliant temporary success, we may in some measure justly accuse of having defrauded us of our time.  We want him to give us that which was most precious to him,–not his life’s blood but even that for which his life’s blood circulated, what he has got by living.  If anything ever yielded him pure pleasure or instruction, let him communicate it.

I needed to read that.  Having taught for three decades, and in recent years posted to a blog, I have always second-guessed how much quoting of others vs. how much personal stuff I should communicate to anyone willing to listen.  My life has been stirred by what I have read of those who have traveled this life before me.  And daily I seek to record my personal visions.  But when it comes to blending the two, I’m never sure, and I guess I never will be.  At any rate, I appreciated Thoreau’s sentiments, because I’m always fearful of putting out blogs that offer nothing more than navel-gazing.

store-shelf-in-progress

Rising from my reading, I returned to the main store counter and looked among the cans, bottles and packages on the shelf, trying to decide what to paint first.  I chose this section, hoping that the bright red Coca-Cola ad would draw immediate attention to the painting, and then hoping that the coffee tin and bottle adjoining would support enough detail to satisfy the curious eye.

store-shelf

As usual, I spent a good part of the weekend perusing Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches, and decided to leave this one as a vignette.  It is approximately 9 x 12″ so I’m seriously considering putting it into the Fort Worth CAC 9 x 12 show two days from now.  They allow us to submit up to six unframed original pieces and they price them at $100 each.  This sketch just might be able to find a home there.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it, grateful for the memories it exudes.

My friends also have a chuckwagon parked in a nearby barn, and have furnished me the keys the section where it is parked.  For a couple of years, I have wanted to attempt sketches of it and finally worked up the nerve Saturday afternoon to visit the barn.

chuckwagon-in-progress

Just as inside the store, I found difficulty narrowing down the pletora of ojects to just a few.  After all, I have to return to work on Monday, and I knew I could not paint the entire scene in one day.

chuckwagon

This one I have not finished, but took plenty of reference photos in hopes that I can complete it in my studio at home.

Late Saturday night, I was too wired to sleep, filled with good feelings about all that had happened during the day–fly fishing, painting, reading, journaling, sitting in a rocking chair and staring across beautiful landscape.  So I returned to the front of the store and began a sketch of one of the old doorknobs and locking mechanisms on the main door connecting the store to the residential section of the building.

doorknob-in-progress

Retiring to bed finally around 1 a.m., I thought I may sleep till noon.  But I awoke at 5:40, feeling rested and energized to make something else happen before loading up and making the three-hour trek back home.  After breakfast, coffee and more quality quiet reading time, I returned to the store and worked further on the painting.  It still isn’t finished, but I took a good close-up reference photo of the details and will certainly finish this one.

doorknob

The weekend in the wilderness has done everything I wished for, and more.  I think I’ll do O.K. returning to work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Stimulus Overload

June 26, 2016

colorado 1 (2)

First Plein Air Sketch of the Morning at Riverbend Resort

colorado 2 (2)

Beginnings of a Second Sketch

tree (2)

The present of my consciousness is itself a mystery which is also always just rounding a bend like a floating branch borne by a flood.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie sure nailed it with that sentence in describing my life. As an educator, I’ve encountered for twenty-eight years students diagnosed with A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), and have felt that I would have been diagnosed with the same, had counselors in my own school youth been equipped with that handle. I have told friends for years that when I am home alone in the afternoons and evenings, that I want to work on a watercolor, read a book, and write in my journal all at the same time.  If I settle for painting, what should I paint? If reading, what book? If journaling, which thought do I want to explore, right now?

I awoke with that dilemma this morning, multiplied to the limits.  The Colorado morning light was crystal clear, the air was cold, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was lying beside my bed, my art supplies and easel were in the corner, and the journal was on the kitchen table. And I wanted to do all of it at the same time.

During breakfast with Ron and Dian Darr, friends whom I’ve known and loved since 1990, I decided to set up the plein air easel and see if I could do something with those beautiful bluffs across the highway from Riverbend Resort where I am staying. For years I have wanted to paint bluffs, and got my first real taste of a few weeks ago in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at Beaver Bluffs.  Last week, west of St. Louis, while driving back toward Texas, I saw those marvelous bluffs carved out along Highway 30 between High Ridge and House Springs–a sight I took for granted during my school years but now was just screaming to be painted.  Last year, I began a painting of one of those bluffs, and it still sits in my studio, unfinished (that’s my life–a studio littered with half-done projects).

After stopping with the first sketch above, clouds rolled up over the mountain, so I decided to begin a second one.  However, the temperatures grew quite hot as the noon hour approached, and I decided to put this second one on hold.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll return to it.  The third pencil sketch was something I dashed out while chatting with Ron under the shaded canopy.

The day has been amazing.  I haven’t yet entered the stream to fly fish, but plan to as soon as the sun drops in the early evening.  Meanwhile I’m staring at this magnificent pine tree in front of my cabin porch–the one I sketched yesterday while mosquitoes ate me.  I have the repellent today and have already bathed my body in it.  Perhaps I’ll give the pine a try in watercolor . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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.

Quality Hours before the Fire

January 21, 2016

image

Texas has been cold, dark and rainy the entire day. Once home from school, I built a nice fire, brewed a pot of coffee and then got under the blankets in front of the fireplace and read with a glad heart. My imagination has been fueled by an article I read today in Culture that popped up on my facebook: “The Death of the Artist–and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” I found the article very engaging, as it traced the history of the artist, from artisan to genius to institution to our current digital age of entrepreneurship. Some of it could have been disturbing, but it rang true, and provoked me to think soberly about what I’m attempting to do at this point in my life. After I read the article, I turned to something I had heard about my entire adult life but never once read: Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman.” What a probing, sober-minded piece of work! The rest of the afternoon found me thinking and scribbling in my journal.

I finally went to my drafting table and worked further on something I started between class periods this morning and posted earlier today:

Jan 21I’m still intrigued by the tangle of winter trees, and never seem to tire of their twisted, gaunt anatomy.

Thanks for reading.

When the Day is Jammed . . .

January 21, 2016

image

There are times like this day, when the public school schedule is so jammed with details, that one cannot find quality moments even to think, but just react. So . . . I decided to see what I could do during the mindless passing periods between classes (about seven minutes). Even when one has seven minutes here and seven minutes there, opportunities for sanctuary still present themselves. And so I retreat into the start of another drawing, with delight, knowing I could always finish the piece tonight in the studio, or tomorrow night, or . . .

Partial Tree Portrait

December 25, 2015

imageThe sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes–no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

While reading, I glanced up at the view out the window, found myself staring at a tree against the morning sky, and decided, “Well, why not?”  I never feel boredom when I stare into a network of tree branches, trying to discern their basic direction, and capturing it on a page with pencil.  The trees I draw from life are always much, much better than what I draw from out of my own imagination, because the trees are always doing much more than I perceive in my memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at them and trying to capture parts of them for the sake of future drawings and watercolors.

Thanks for looking . . .

Drawing of my Drawing

December 8, 2015

image

Seated in my classroom after hours, I wanted to draw, but my room has no windows.  So . . . I took out my Sunday drawing of the tree and decided to draw from the drawing.  Unfortunately, the lighting is not good for photography here, but I’m happy with the result of this drawing-of-a-drawing.  At least this will hold me till I can get outdoors again to draw from the real subject.

I will forever be grateful for Youtube!  Listening to Harold Bloom discussing Emerson in an interview gave me great company during this quiet afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Settling into My New Writing Sanctuary

November 23, 2015

desk

A Most Precious Gift–a New Writing Desk

desk library

My Newly-Designated Writing Area

“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.  It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The most frutstrating part of being ill the past couple of weeks was the inability to use my eyes for reading, writing or making art.  For months I had been toiling over a manusccript describing my experience painting and journaling on the Texas Laguna Madre last summer.  During the struggle I took Hemingway’s words to heart, refusing to succumb to writer’s block, and refusing to think my writing was garbage. As the manuscript grew and became more unmanageable, and as the school semester became more demanding with its unceasing deadlines, I pushed the manuscript into a drawer and decided to let the ideas “compost” awhile. Then I got sick!

Now I’m better, and a most wonderful gift was given to me that I shall always cherish–a rolltop desk. Designating a corner of my bedroom as my writing area, I’ve dedicated a part of every single day to sitting here and reworking the manuscript I began last June. I have always loved the writing process and now will seek a way to strike a balance between my writing and painting studios. I’m grateful that life is abundant enough to support both endeavors.

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.

Sketching Into the Weekend

October 16, 2015

imageI prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my high school years, I have preferred winter trees a a subject for drawing. With the ragweed season out of control, I cannot go outdoors to draw trees from direct observation, so I continue to sketch them from my imagination, a practice that I always fear leaves caricature or cartoony effects. Soon the wretched ragweed will die, the fall colors will change, leaves will disappear and once again I will be able to look directly at my subjects and attempt to draw them as they really are.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Second Afternoon in the Studio

October 14, 2015

imageTwo consecutive afternoons in the studio are paying dividends. I did not go back to work on the first large watercolor, feeling it is nearly finished, or perhaps already finished. This one is starting to take on more character. I’m still not satisfifed that I have pushed the texturing of the ground cover quite far enough yet. I’m going to lay it aside for another day at least before I proceed.

Today was not what I would call a real school day–PSAT testing for four hours, followed by abbreviated class schedules. Seeing that I was taken out of the teaching loop, I managed to scratch out a couple of sketches throughout the seven-hour grind. I do find a sense of peace and consolation when I scratch different grades of pencil across the page and pour out my ideas. And since my main job throughout the day was administrative proctoring, I made my rounds, scratched a few lines, walked around the desks some more, scratched out a few more lines, and ultimately a tree was born.

Though unfinished, I like the direction these two 5 x 7″ sketches are going. Perhaps tomorrow after school I’ll have more time to scratch out some more limbs.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to think more clearly.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.