Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Drawing or Painting or Both?

January 17, 2020

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At Work on the Union Pacific “Big Boy”

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The “Big Boy”–18 x 24″ watercolor

Drawing is the probity of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Painting can overcome one with its sensuousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.

Robert Motherwell

January has provided plenty of time and relaxation to pursue a pair of commissions–steam locomotives. These are subjects I have always loved to paint, But only when I had weeks of leisure between calendar appointments. Now, with west Texas temperatures plummeting below freezing, it is nice not to have to get out and drive anywhere. I love the dim winter light in the windows, the sounds of the howling winds outside and the crackle of a fire in the fireplace.

Part of this morning was given to reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. While painting, I listened to some of his interviews on Youtube and decided I wanted to read more from him. In 1970 he published an essay, “Thoughts on Drawing”. This I have read a number of times over past years and am glad I gave it another look this morning.

I did not know until college that I was more of a draughtsman than a painter. My painting professor called my oils “colored drawings” and my student teaching advisor told me I needed to be more “painterly”. My art history professor, looking at my series of oils, remarked “nice drawings.” This may be why I eventually turned to watercolor, because in that media, one can get away with drawing with color.

In re-reading the Motherwell essay, I came up with this remarkable observation from the poet Baudelaire, whom Motherwell never tired of quoting:

Pure draughtsmen are philosophers and dialecticians. Colorists are epic poets. 

Throughout my life, I have held the deepest regard for philosophers as well as poets, feeling I lacked the gifts to be either, while always trying to be both. I always thought the philosopher anchored the left brain with reasoning and discpline, while poetry resided in the right with emotion and exploration. The Greek dramatists perceived Apollo as patron saint of reason while Dionysus advocated risk.

Personally, I feel most “in my element” in watercolor when I am feeding both sides. That is happening with this locomotive–I am exacting in the details of the machine while at the same time full of swish when dealing with the steam, smoke and general atmosphere. The entire time I have worked on this, I continually moved back and forth between the two regions, never feeling boredom or tedium. The day has been splendid while working on this piece. I am very pleased knowing I am a long way from finishing; I feel I am going to regret seeing this one come to a conclusion, so fulfilling has been the experience of pursuing it.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Changes

January 16, 2020

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Kevin and Alan in the Morning–New Horizons

All we are is dust in the wind.

Kansas

Waking on this frigid, dark and rainy winter morning, I made coffee and went to my desk to begin searching for ways to push back against an encroaching despondency. It isn’t the weather. The video announcement was released yesterday afternoon online from Smooth Rock 93.5 FM: the station has been donated to a non-profit, church ministry in Houston, so my gallery roommates will not be broadcasting when I return to Palestine. Kevin and Alan in the Morning made their final broadcast yesterday, not signing off because they had not yet been notified that the plug had been pulled.  I streamed the station all morning today, because the app is still running on my phone. But their voices and early morning humor won’t happen today. They posted their farewell video yesterday afternoon, and this morning their picture (above) has appeared on Facebook advising us to stay tuned. They have some ideas in the hopper about what to do next, but listeners remain in the dark to find out when or if we will hear from them again.

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Kevin Harris

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Alan Wade

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Victoria Minton-Beam

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Marc Mitchell

I will not forget the summer of 2018 when I was told of the arrival of Smooth Rock to Palestine. And I will not forget the feelings of entering the gallery on weekday mornings to hear the duo broadcasting live, often calling me over to the microphone to join in on their discussions. They have been good friends and patrons of the musical, visual and performing arts in east Texas, and their megaphone is going to be sorely missed. I wonder how long it will take for me to enter The Gallery at Redlands and be comfortable with the broadcast studio no longer in the room with me. The presence was a welcome one, and it will take some effort getting used to the radio silence.

The Presocratics began writing 2500 years ago that it is necessary for anything that has a beginning to have an end. We all know this. But knowing that doesn’t make these realities any easier. And so, Kevin, Alan, Victoria, Marc—I hope our paths continue to intersect in one way or another. I am not ready to let go of you.

I am forced now to turn my attention to some imminent deadlines. My one-man-show, “Memories from a Small Town”, will open February 1 at the Point and Pavilion building at CC Young Senior Living Center, 4847 West Lawther Drive, Dallas. At the time of this writing I am compiling the list of works that will hang in the show. I have been asked to make a presentation at the Meet the Artist reception February 13 from 3:30 to 4:30. So, I am also putting together a Powerpoint presentation with accompanying remarks.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Juggling More than One Interest

January 15, 2020

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Nearing Completion on the KATY train

To achieve their goal, masterpieces must charm but also penetrate the soul and make a deep impression on the mind that is similar to reality. . . . Therefore the artist must have studied all the motives of mankind and he must know nature thoroughly. In short he must be a philosopher.

Jacques Louis David

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Early Stages of the UP Big Boy

Recently, my blog activity has been sharply curtailed. Scheduled events are approaching quickly: a one-man-show, a speaking engagement and a watercolor workshop. In the midst of planning and corresponding with other parties involved, I have been submerged in a pair of watercolor commissions of locomotives and, as always, much reading.

I naively thought that since I would not be teaching this semester my study hours would significantly diminish. Instead, with no assigned subject matter, I find myself spending more time in book stores and public libraries, and looking over taller stacks of books at home. Soon, I may be responding to what I’ve been reading from Daniel Goleman’s books on emotional intelligence along with Alain de Botton’s ideas on art, philosophy and life.

But today, I have found myself ricocheting among the ideas of several notable painters: Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. Returning to my favorite hobby horses, I find myself musing over ways to balance academic study with making art. On most days of my life, I find myself holding the reins of these two horses as they pull my cart on this slippery, rutty path. I have told my friends that when I am painting, I’m thinking about what I want to read and write, and while reading and writing, I’m thinking about what I want to paint. Both activities tug at me perennially.

I opened this blog with the quote from Jacques Louis David as I have been reading of the lives of the NeoClassical artists steeped in philosophy and academic pursuits along with their painting. I followed that up with my resumed reading from the journals of Eugene Delacroix, and read this morning his criticisms of one of his most intimate colleagues, Paul-Marc-Joseph Chenavard. Whereas Delacroix, the quintessential Romantic, drew much inspiration from music, and spent quality time in the company of Chopin, Chenavard, steeped in German philosophy, believed intellect to be the main driver of the artist. Delacroix, in one of his journal entries, made reference to “the learned and unfortunately too cold Chenavard. He puts literature in the first rank, painting comes next, and music is only last.”

In a flurry of text messages with one of my artist friends this morning, we discussed the plethora of avenues of inspiration available to the artist, and agreed that we shouldn’t denigrate anyone for pursuing different stimuli from our own. Anyone engaged in the creative task should feel free to open up to the richness of sources available to us.

Long ago, when I was employed in the Protestant ministry, I struggled to balance private academic study with public expression. Frequently, I was asked by parishioners and fellow pastors what I wished to be, a scholar or a preacher. I never understood that false dichotomy, and marveled every time I encountered the sentiment that the pulpit was no place for an academician. Later when I turned to education, I no longer had to face that dichotomy; a teacher was expected to be academically driven.

But once I became active as an artist, I found the wedge once again driven between academic pursuits and artistic expression. Frequently I found myself floundering in discussions with fellow artists who wished to discuss only techniques, materials and subject matter for painting, but not theory. As I studied and taught art history, I found my kindred spirits in that world, Robert Motherwell especially. This man started out as an academician, and when he turned to painting, he brought that world with him. Throughout his lengthy career, he found a way to write, publish and lecture as well as paint and exhibit. In that balance, he has become a personal hero of mine. Every time I feel that there is a conflict between the disciplines, I return to his collected writings, fully understanding his frustrations an he spoke of the difficulty (and rewards) of striking the balance.

I have posted photos of the two paintings I’ve been working on recently. One of them might be finished; I’ve laid it aside for a few days and will look at it later with fresh eyes to determine whether I should push it further. Meanwhile I am actively working on the much larger Union Pacific “Big Boy.” The KATY is a 9 x 12″; the Big Boy an 18 x 24″. In both works, I am entering a fascinating world as I experiment with smoke, steam and atmospheric effects. I suppose the reason for such stimulation is because I do not yet have an established algorithm or series of steps to follow. I feel like a chef in the kitchen experimenting with a little of this and a little of that as I use a spritz bottle, toothbrush and variety of brushes and X-acto knife along with sprinkles of salt and stale bread crumbs to push the pigments around on the dampened paper. And I’m frequently adding new warm and cool colors to my gray mixtures that I’ve never used before, and I’m coming up with several surprises, none of them unpleasant yet. It’s fun to paint with this sense of exploration and adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced

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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Musings in the Morning Light

January 9, 2020

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. . . and the philosophical light around my window is now my joy; may I be able to keep on as I have thus far!

The poet Hölderlin writing to a friend, December 2, 1802

I feel everlasting gratitude to a friend who allows me to reside in this lovely place for an extended visit. These days of privacy are filled with hours beside the fireplace where I can read by the gray morning winter light. My makeshift studio is a mere ten paces away, and I can honestly say that, for me, days spent in watercolor activity are better than days that are not. During the intermittent spells of allowing the paintings to dry, I love to immerse myself in books and writing.

January 2020 finds me in a reflective mode, as I look back at the prior year, and then further back over my personal years and continue recording memories I believe worth holding on to. I have recently made a pleasant discovery: Alain de Botton with his lectures available on Youtube, and books I’ve been checking out of a local library. As my life is anchored by the activities of reading, writing and making art, I’m delighted to read these words from this kindred spirit:

Writing is the obvious response to the consequences of forgetting; art is the second central response.

There are a number of reasons why I have lived a life scribbling in my journals and later taking up blogging—these are records of my daily musings as I attempt to sort out and clarify what I want out of life. I cannot think of a better employment for myself than that of an educator—it was my “job” to assist students in the process of growing up, of cultivating the richest possible life. Now in retirement years, I am finally finding the time to pursue some interests that a daily job obstructed. This is probably why my blog activity has increased in frequency—this is my first semester without a contract. My normal activity lacks a classroom forum, so now I just launch my ideas into cyberspace.

Homer’s Odyssey is finally getting my attention. This was an epic I lacked interest to pursue during the years of my schooling. But now in these senior years, I am finding real treasure in these pages. The Robert Fagles translation has been a most satisfying read, and I cannot say enough about the excellent introduction authored by Bernard Knox. My heart sank when I read the sentiments of a first-century writer who thought Homer created this work after age had drained his intensity. According to this critic, this epic was “the product of Homer’s old age, of a mind in decline; it was a work that could be compared to the setting sun—the size remained, without the force.”

Sentiments such as this have always seized my attention. Throughout my earlier years, I came to terms with the reality of the ebb and flow of our creative exploits. We cannot be “on” all the time. And I have always believed that periods of creative dormancy were necessary rest and replenishment for the active soul. But now, in my senior years, I do worry about the reality of physical decline and the possibility of losing one’s edge in creativity. I feel that my own mind and imagination are more developed than ever before, but at the same time acknowledge that my powers of memory and recall are certainly not what they were. And so, I devote much of my life to re-reading and recording precious truths that have made life so meaningful.

I will never stop feeling deep gratitude that I was afforded the opportunity to learn Greek during my years of graduate study. I was taught Koinē Greek so I could translate the New Testament writings. But since those years, I have spent countless hours poring over Homeric and Presocratic texts and uncovering the most amazing ideas.

Recently, in my examinations of Homer, I have received new insights into the word “nostalgia.” The first part of this word Homer uses 245 times in his two epics. The verb nosteo and noun nostos point out the return to one’s home or country. The verb algeo and noun algos refer to pain or distress. Hence the word “nostalgia” indicates the pain of returning home. We know all too well the pangs we experience in revisiting our roots, whether it is returning home for a visit regardless of whether family members or friends are still living or not. We also know these pains when we re-open photo albums or even go back into our smart phones to review photos we have taken. We know these feelings if we re-read letters we have kept, or review diaries and journals.

Learning what I have about this word “nostalgia” has thrown a sharper spotlight on the travails of Odysseus, the “much-traveled” wanderer who has accumulated layer upon layer of experience resulting in much ambiguity as to his identity and purpose. Reading The Odyssey comes at a good time, because I’ve been working on a watercolor of a steam locomotive charging through the night, and it brings to mind many of my all-night excursions on AMTRAK from Fort Worth to St. Louis. Going back through my journals recently, I uncovered many layers of writings as I looked out the window of the moving train, surveying the back yards of impoverished neighborhoods, and backstreets of decrepit southern towns. On my headset, I was listening to acoustic, country blues guitar music accompanied by mournful voices and lyrics. And all the while, I was looking at the twinkle of Christmas lights on the shabby houses. I felt the co-mingling of warmth and sadness. Good will and poverty. I still shudder when I recall those cold, lonely nights of travel, heading home to revisit aging family members and friends.

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Work on a Commissioned Watercolor

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A man is whatever room he is in.

Japanese saying

Going back through my archive, I pulled this selfie I took in October 2016 because it was what I thought about when I sat beside the fire this morning, reading by the light coming through the windows behind me. The reason I return frequently to this photo (and I did a watercolor of it as well) is because the setting reminds me of all I’ve read of philosopher Martin Heidegger retreating to his cabin in the Black Forest to think and write his most famous works. At that time, he was a professor at the University of Berlin, but he preferred the solitude of the village of Todtnauberg and its intimate connection to nature. Every time I go back to that old store where I first sat in October 2016, I feel the connection to Heidegger in Todtnauberg, or Thoreau at Walden, or the theologian Karl Barth at his cottage in the Bergli. I am not the only one to feel that profound mental transport to other ages. I read the following recently from N. Scott Momaday:

By this time I was back into the book, caught up completely in the act of writing. I had projected myself—imagined myself—out of the room and out of time. I was there with Ko-sahn in the Oklahoma July.

In 1946, Martin Heidegger delivered his notable lecture “What Are Poets For?” Heidegger borrowed the line from a Hölderlin poem that pointed out the troublesome times Germany was facing in the nineteenth century, and Heidegger resurrected the words on the 1946 occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Rainer Maria Rilke’s death. Heidegger’s day in Germany was also a profoundly dark one, and he questioned what the role of a creator was when his/her culture faced a darkening time. I find January 2020 an extremely dark time in our world and wonder also what exactly I am to do in the face of this cultural midnight.

In the film “Pollock” there is the episode of Jackson Pollock visiting for the first time the general store in Springs, Long Island. The proprietor at the counter asks him if he’s from the city. When Pollock nods, the man responds that he doesn’t blame him for retreating to the small town. In a world where a man can invent the atom bomb the only thing one can do is retreat to a quiet place and do what you have to do. In our current darkening days I also wonder just exactly what I am to do.

January 2020 is proving to be a pensive month for me. I have a one-man-show opening in Dallas February 1, but until then, I have oceans of time around me and am glad to have the quality time and space to contemplate what to do in my next adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz on websiteI 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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Wandering Thoughts while Painting

January 8, 2020

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Making Headway with this Commission

No one can get anywhere without contemplation. Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The morning started early this time, around 5:30. With my coffee, I tried to read from my “Bible” (Robert Henri, The Art Spirit), but found myself instead scribbling out a large number of pages in my journal. I recall Friedrich Nietzsche, as a classical philologist grieving for the scholar who could not think “unless he had a book between his fingers.” Nietzsche said that it was a tragedy to rise early in the morning with a mind fresh and ready for ideas, and to waste that time in other thinkers’ transcripts. I am convinced that if the nineteenth century had a problem with books standing between a thinker and his/her thoughts, today it is smart phones. Alain de Botton once said that the problem with our phones is not that we’re gaming too much, but that “they don’t allow us enough time with our thoughts.” Putting my phone on the shelf, I gave myself to good thoughts and good reading, knowing that whatever came to me over my phone could wait.

Probably the reason for my percolating mind this morning was reading Henri before bedtime last evening. I was captivated by his comments on the “powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development.” In Platonic fashion, Henri divided the world between a surface, material realm and an underlying, foundational, spiritual one. Building on this scheme, Henri then divided artists between the two realms. Emerging from the world of the illustrator which he knew all-too-well, Henri argued that “the artist of the surface does not see further than material fact. He describes appearances and he illustrates events.”

Henri, as a sage, devotes a large section of his book The Art Spirit to inspiring artists to seek that underlying spiritual dynamic:

Event and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface. But there is another and deeper change in progress. It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions. The artist of today should be alive to this deeper evolution on which all growth depends, has depended and will depend.

Aristotle pointed out two branches of knowledge: technē (from which we get technology) furnishes us the tools for our tasks, and sophia (translated “wisdom”) which is closer to the Delphic Oracle (“Know Thyself”), furnishing us with insight. It is this inner, self-knowledge that Aristotle said points us to the spirit of well-being or fulfilment (eudaimonia).

I have written about this in other blog posts but will write it again: I regard myself as a late bloomer, educationally. Throughout my public schooling, I lacked the maturity and discipline to apply myself to the school disciplines of study. The only skill I possessed was that as an artist, and fortunately those technical abilities (which I developed enthusiastically during junior and senior high school) landed me a scholarship to the university. At the university, I woke up to the world of ideas and could not satisfy my lust for learning. When my doctorate was completed, I did a swan dive into the classroom and remained for three decades. During these years in the educational crucible, I continued to study and reflect and examine the foundations for my artistic enterprise.

Now, retired, I find myself constantly making sketches of myself while in my element, seated, calm, and exploring my aesthetic world by making art, reading and writing out my thoughts:

Shultz reduced

 

This morning, while rendering this locomotive, I thought of Aristotle’s words, and decided that for me, technē could assist in portraying the “surface” of this painting, while hopefully sophia would percolate like my morning coffee, producing eudaimonia.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website 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.

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Speeding Up or Slowing Down? Horizontal or Vertical?

January 7, 2020

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Martha. Martha. You are distracted by many things. Only one thing is necessary. Your sister has chosen that one thing and it will not be taken from her.

Luke 10:41-42, TT (Tripp’s Translation) 😊

My mind wanders over the landscape of thought while painting, and as I work on this locomotive composition, the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha keeps visiting my consciousness. If you haven’t read the account in Luke’s Gospel, I urge you to take a look at the brief story. While Mary sits at the feet of Jesus in their home, hanging on his every spoken word, Martha is prattling about the house trying to get everything in order to serve their guests. Finally, in frustration, she implores Jesus to tell her sister to get up and help with the tasks. His response is posted above. The contrast between the sisters is front and center of my thoughts this morning, and I’m going to try and work this out: charging Martha vs. contemplative Mary.

I am developing a painting of a steam locomotive charging and snorting across the landscape like a runaway steed. We can imagine a scene inside this charging vessel of iron: sedentary people drinking coffee, nibbling pastries, smoking cigars and reading newspapers. The surface appearance would suggest a calm interior contrasted with the velocity outside. But within this nexus of people we would likely find the same contrast: some of them charging impatiently toward appointments, others quietly enjoying the journey.

Suspended above the train, stars weave intricate constellations, but few inside the train are looking out the windows in admiration. Or, to draw from the observations of Pythagoras, the stars perform complex symphonies, but few will listen. The world still offers unspeakable resources to a people who will not respond.

We live in an age of sharp contrasts, but the weight seems distributed toward the frenetic. In this current digital media age, we hurtle through life at warp speed, many of us chasing every stimulus that presents itself. Restless people in our culture carry smart phones and are constantly engaged with the screens, reading, texting, flitting from platform to platform, seldom pausing to absorb many of the gifts the environment offers. One of the greatest gifts is repose.

If we are to become a more thoughtful culture, a more fulfilled people, what would we need to consider? If mature, reflective thought and response is to come from us, what do we need? How do we harness the discipline to think twice before responding? Soak time is required. Time to pause. To breathe. To center. To compost. Heidegger once wrote: “We never come to thoughts. They come to us.” How often are we willing and patient to allow fresh ideas to come to us? Why do we think happiness and contentment must be chased? Captured?

On May 6, 1963 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, theologian Paul Tillich was the principal speaker at the fortieth anniversary party for Time magazine. His audience consisted of 284 subjects of Time cover stories, including Adlai Stevenson and Douglas MacArthur. His address was titled “The Ambiguity of Perfection.” His biographer Wilhelm Pauck summarized the event:

Pointing to the ambiguous character of all high achievement, Tillich hammered home to his audience the idea that the human condition is ever ambiguous, an “inseparable mixture of good and evil, of creative and destructive forces, both individual and social . . . there is nothing unambiguously creative and nothing unambiguously destructive. They accompany each other inseparably.”

The same was true, he continued, of the one-dimensional culture of which they were all a part. It was a free society, to be sure, but one without depth: its ceaseless expansion, whether into outer space or on the production line, had created an almost irresistible temptation on the part of everyone to produce in order to produce still more.

Tillich exhorted the producers of cultural goods to stop moving in this one-dimensional direction—to come to a halt in order to “enter creation and unite with its power,” in short, to add the vertical line of depth to the horizontal line of extension. In a direct reference to his own role as a Socratic gadfly, he pointed out that the creative critics of contemporary society no longer needed to fear martyrdom, but were instead forced to “fight against being absorbed by the culture as another cultural good.”

Martha was the quintessential, spastic reactor, the embodiment of frenetic energy, always churning. Mary, the reflective one, knew that one thing mattered. One thing was necessary. Jesus said she found it, and it would not be taken away from her. May we find that resolve to figure out what matters.

Thanks for reading. Please check out my blog http://www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz reducedI 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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Whittling and Weaving

January 6, 2020

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Goethe’s works, letters and diaries fill 143 volumes . . . of course by no means everything he wrote is first-rate, but – or perhaps it is because – he worked constantly and never sought the easy way out, least of all by following a formula.

Walter Kaufmann, Introduction to Goethe’s Faust

I cannot express the depths of my admiration for the writings of Goethe, and only wish I would have begun earlier in life to study his works. While working on this recent watercolor, I have been re-reading Faust during the drying periods. And as I read of Goethe’s prolific output, I am reminded of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the way his study was strewn with unfinished manuscripts and projects. After all these years, I have hundreds of volumes of handwritten journals on the shelf, years of blog posts in the cloud and hundreds of drawings and watercolor attempts stacked in the studio and stored in steamer trunks and suitcases. Knowing that Goethe continually edited his old works, I consider the possibilities of revisiting and revising my own.

As I continue fiddling with this watercolor, the extensive network of tree limbs and layers of woven grasses have drawn my focus to matters of design not often visited, and I am really enjoying this journey while at the same time pausing to read and ponder the most engaging literature.

When I focus all my attention on a patch of grasses within just a couple of square inches, I feel I am using a penknife to whittle on a log. I am easily swallowed up in such a tiny part of our world. And my mind visits so many unrelated ideas while I work at leisure. I cannot describe the well-being I experience when I am in my element.

I suppose the reason I feel so good about all this is because I am not following a formula, I am not bored by repetition, I am not on an assembly line cranking out product. I feel like a creator, free to experiment, not needing permission to spend time doing this. The lovely gift of retirement includes rising before daylight on a Monday morning, not having to go to work for someone else, but making coffee and entering the studio to play another day.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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A Thinker’s Well-Being

January 5, 2020

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Continued Work on the Dickens, Texas Landscape

. . . they make life harder for themselves than they should. Oh, that at long last you had the courage for once to yield yourselves to your impressions, to let yourselves be delighted, let yourselves be moved, let yourselves be elevated, yes, to let yourselves be taught and inspired and encouraged for something great . . . 

Goethe, conversation with his young secretary Eckermann, May 6, 1827

I didn’t post yesterday, choosing instead to make another sojourn out to Dickens, Texas to enjoy the fabulous barbecue there and then to stroll about the landscape in a nearby roadside park that offered access to a fascinating gorge and waterfall complete with walking trails. While on site, gazing at the fields of tall dead grasses, I recognized immediately that my yellows are too warm and intense than what I actually see during these sunny winter Texas days. Once I got back home, I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not I should neutralize my warm yellows or just let them continue as they are, and try to get the colors right on a future attempt at this landscape. Already I have poured quite a bit of work into this one, and wonder if I dare make such a profound change in its overall look.

Waking this Sunday morning, I chose to spend some quiet time reading and reflecting before resuming the painting. For a few days I have enjoyed the crackling intensity and restlessness of Faust. This time I decided I wanted to read from a quieter spirit. Having worked on the text of Plotinus Enniad I, I had focused all my previous efforts on his thoughts in Book 6 “On Beauty.” This morning I spent about an hour on Book 4 “On Well-Being.” Good choice. The word translated “well-being” is ευδαιμóνια (eudaimonia).

I discovered in this morning’s study that Plotinus, after examining the works of Aristotle and Stoic writers, concluded that “well-being” can be achieved by what we call today a “Life of the Mind.” Plotinus determined that the highest good results from a “life of the Intellect, independent of all outward circumstances and material and emotional satisfactions of our lower nature” (introductory statement from the editor Jeffrey Henderson). As I worked through the Plotinus text and read comments from the editor, I was surprised to find a parallel between Plotinus’s words and those from the Parable of the Sower we read from the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament.

Plotinus argued that the accumulation of material comfort can easily distract one who has the capacity of a life of the mind from actually experiencing this richness. When Jesus mentioned the four types of soils, he referred to the one overrun by thorns and thistles. He said this was indicative of those who wished to seek higher values, but the cares and “distractions” of this age sprung up and choked out the growth of the newly planted crop, thus rendering it unfruitful. I smiled at this for a number of reasons, one of which I’ll mention and then leave alone:

I purchased a book a few days ago, explaining how to incorprate Instagram into one’s business. As readers are aware, I launched a new website recently, and since that day have been studying ways to use social media to raise my profile in the art world. As one who loves to read daily, I have found myself recently struggling to balance this study of business and marketing with my longtime love of classical learning. Today I returned to classical learning, and feel much richer for it. In fact, I am more motivated to paint now than I have been while reading and exploring Instagram. Who would have guessed.

There, I said it. Now I’m ready to return to the painting. Thanks for reading, and yes, please take a look at my website if you haven’t:   www.davidtrippart.com

Shultz on websiteI 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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Lost Among the Layers

January 3, 2020

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Reference Photo for my New Watercolor

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The Foundation: Three Layers of Masquing Removed

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Building the Composition

Mysterious in the light of day,

Nature, in veils, will not let us perceive her,

And what she is unwilling to betray,

You cannot wrest from her with thumbscrews,

wheel, or lever.

Goethe, Faust

After working well into last night on this watercolor, I awoke this morning with the feeling that I would lay it aside and just spend time reading for awhile. All that changed when I received a phone call from an artist friend with whom I hadn’t visited in ten months. Our chat lasted nearly half an hour, and my creative energy level has been buzzing ever since.

Today, after burrowing through several layers of wash and masquing, I have reached a point where I am unsure of my next step. The Goethe quote came to mind, because I have always been convinced that there is no algorithm, no template for painting a landscape, at least not for me. That is why I sometimes struggle when conducting a watercolor workshop on landscape painting because I seldom find myself repeating the same sequence of techniques each time. One of Edward Hopper’s contemporaries criticized his oils because of the many preparatory steps he took in drawing and watercolor sketching before approaching the final canvas. Every compositional detail had been worked out in advance. The critic regarded the oils as too preplanned and stale, but thought that Hopper’s watercolors, on the contrary, showed discovery happening all the time. I take solace in that.

Today, I have been alternating my painting with my reading. I have no choice. The decision made to engage in an Andrew Wyeth-style technique of dry brushing winter grasses means, for me, layer upon layer of masqued weed lines followed by progressively darker washes, along with toothbrush-spattering of masquing fluid and pigments. I also combine the sprinkling of salt and stale breadcrumbs. While doing these activities, I make intermittent swipes of weed patterns, using graphite pencils and X-acto knife and pocket knife. This is an all-day affair because of the length of time required for drying between layers of experiments. With temperatures outside in the thirties, the watercolor paper is not drying very quickly, and I have never been fond of standing with a hair dryer to speed the process.

So, I pause for long drying periods to read, and Friedrich Schiller has been a most favorable intellectual companion. I’ve been reading his letters about aesthetic education, and frequently return to Kant’s The Critique of Judgement to get a better handle on some of the categories Schiller mentions in passing. I am finding this reading very engaging as well as challenging. And I feel like the charicature of the mad scientist as I explore these layers of color and texture and look continually at enlargements of this reference photo to figure out how to capture these nuances of nature. These sentiments led me to return to the pages of Goethe’s Faust and now I enjoy them as I sit beside the fireplace, absorbing its warmth during this winter season.

I have burrowed deeply into this landscape and am enjoying the study and exploration. My three areas of focus are the horizon structures, the network of dead tree branches and the endless woven patterns among the grasses.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll check out my blog www.davidtrippart.com

Shultz reducedI 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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January 2–A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

January 2, 2020

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Preparing to Stretch 16 x 20″ Watercolor Paper for New Work

As soon as we have the thing

before our eyes, and in our hearts an ear

for the word, thinking prospers.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Waking to a sunny new world, with this raw, winter landscape picture from Dickens, Texas in my imagination, I knew what I wanted to do today: stretch the paper and get right to work on preliminary compositional sketches of this and see if I could crack the Andrew Wyeth code for capturing the quiet expanse of winter. I came up with some technical ideas a few summers ago while watercolor sketching cord grass on the island at the Laguna Madre. I think I just might be able to apply some of that with this one.

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Photograph Awaiting Preparatory Sketches

Last night, I finally watched “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. And of course, everything I had read about the film proved to be correct–everyone should sit through this presentation and drink in every moment, every word. There is so much I could write about the film, but the most powerful thought came to me at the beginning when Tom Hanks asked the children: “Do you know what that means to forgive? It is a decision we make to release a person from the feeling of anger we have at them.”

For the next several minutes I was deaf and blind to what the movie said and projected; my mind was racing backward to a day in the fall of 1977, forty-three years ago. The very first vocabulary word I learned in New Testament (Koinē) Greek was λúω. As a class, we were drilled to render that word functionally as “I am releasing.” Day after day, when flashcards were held up, we translated in unison as a class, and when that word flashed, we chorused “I am releasing.” It wasn’t till long afterward that I discovered that one of the meanings of this fluid word was “forgiveness” or “letting go.”

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Among the recorded words of Jesus are these: “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Though I’ve never had an opinion on the “heaven” dimension, I have always been convinced of the far-reaching power of one’s binding or releasing. Words we utter indeed hold power over others that we too often underestimate. I still hear words spoken to me from eons back, the negative as well as the positive, and they still wax strong after all these years.

One of the many haunting moments from the film was Mister Rogers reminding adult authority figures: You were a child once, too. He pointed out the ways we swear to ourselves when young that we will never grow up to be adults capable of hurting children with our words. As a retired teacher, those went sraight to my heart. I find it difficult to live with memories of things I said toward students that should never have been said. Words have a powerful living, abiding force, and too many of us forget that when we speak or post in angry retaliation.

I miss Fred Rogers, and wish our world had more of his kind. And I wish our world had more reception to those of his kind. There are some of us who blog pictures and words, hoping these images and words can bring something of worth to humankind. Social media has indeed made this possible. Though we must acknowledge that for every photograph or painting posted there will be thousands of those posted of good looking men and women holding up their smart phones, posing for the picture. And for every thoughtful paragraph of heartfelt prose or every stanza of original poetry, there will be millions of lines of bumper sticker tweets, many of them derogatory. We cannot stop the turbulent flow of angry waters. But we can dredge out some deeper pools of meaning. Remember this thought from Heidegger:

As soon as we have the thing

before our eyes, and in our hearts an ear

for the word, thinking prospers.

Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful day in your neighborhood, and wish me luck with my new blog www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz reduced

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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