Promising First Day of a New Era

January 1, 2020

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Sketching and Taking Notes from Schiller

I awoke to a sweetness in the air, 2020 already hovering in the early morning as a harbinger of new possibilities. While waking slowly, I began turning over in my imagination some new attempts at watercolor sketching en plein air during these winter months. I rose from bed and retrieved some files of summertime sketches, including one of my favorites below:

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8 x 10″ watercolor sketch in 11 x 14″ white mat

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Photo taken of winter fields in Dickens, Texas

While traveling over the Christmas holiday, I frequently photographed barren stretches of land that take me back to primal memories of Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches that my art teacher showed me in ninth grade. I still am studying these earth tones and textures, puzzling how to interpret them on paper without presenting a boring composition.

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Andrew Wyeth, “Flock of Crows”

In all my years of making art, I have turned many corners and known many satisfactions over pieces I’ve created. But this Wyeth drybrush watercolor and pencil study still remains for me the Gold Standard of watercolor landscape. To this day I have not been able to view this original work; the only times it has been on display at a major Wyeth retrospective, I was unable to travel to the site and see it for myself. It remains on my bucket list. I am keeping this image before me as I study the photograph from Dicken’s, Texas. The time has probably arrived for me to attempt a winterscape such as this.

Later, while reading over coffee this magnificent book by Schiller, I came across the following passage:

Nature may touch our organs as vigorously and variously as you please—all her diversity is lost upon us, because we are looking for nothing in her but what we have put there, because we don’t allow her to come forward to meet us, from without, but rather strive with impatiently anticipating reason to go out from within ourselves to meet her.

Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters, Thirteenth Letter

Reading this piece resulted in a shock of recognition; in a recent public lecture, I drew the following words from Peter London’s Drawing Closer to Nature:

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. Rush it and you will never see it. Grab for it and it will give you nothing of its real self, only what you set out to grab.  But wait a while longer, and the place begins to breathe audibly, to creep and flutter, beat, to speak in a thousand ways.  You listen.  That is today’s conversation.

O.K., I believe I am ready to begin a new painting . . .

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website 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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Hoping for a Quieter, More Thoughtful 2020

December 31, 2019

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The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

Ecclesiastes 9:17

Six hours and the clock will bring in the New Year. Throughout most of my life, I have read the Book of Ecclesiastes in prepration for each new year. This litereary genre falls under a category I call Progressive (or Pessimistic) Wisdom. A large portion of my doctoral dissertation was dedicated to the Hebrew wisdom tradition, and though that book closed in 1987, I never stopped reading the literature or researching the tradition in Hebrew history. Whereas the Book of Proverbs presents an earlier, optimistic and more traditional wisdom in the Hebrew ethos, Ecclesiastes was composed during a later, darker era of world confusion.

I would encourage everyone to read this great book (only twelve chapters–nine actual pages in my Bible) each year and take inventory on one’s philosophy of life. This writer was an aged ruler who had a reputation for unparalleled wealth, power, influence and wisdom. Yet, in his senior years, he concluded that all was “vanity” (empty) in this life under the sun. After eleven chapters of sounding the “empty” refrain, he offered a more promising conclusion: reverence God and keep his commandments, for this makes one complete.

I posted the passage above, because I muse this evening over social media and our Internet Age of Verbiage. Yes, I too contribute to the blogosphere of chatter, and am seriously considering writing more in 2020 than I have the year prior. But I’m troubled this evening at the profusion of hate and resentment that flows like a river of poison across our culture (and much of it very badly written, I might add). I am certain that much of this discourse could have been avoided had the speaker or author paused long enough to re-read and re-consider the words before releasing them into the void. I read a statement from someone earlier today that we ourselves get over the bad feelings and poisoned words we toss out, but our targets can hold on to the words for years, and suffer the effects of the ill wishes. Life is too precious to live under a barrage of hate and invective.

So here is my pledge to be quieter, kinder and more thoughtful in the words I toss onto the blog. I want readers to feel good about this gift of life when they read what I choose to share. I’ll try to keep my focus on this matter in 2020 and beyond.

Thanks for reading, please check out my website (www.davidtrippart.com), have a Happy New Year and find space in your life for the Quiet.

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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Chiselling Your Statue

December 31, 2019

z portrait of me

Leaning Forward to a New Year

And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet,

act as the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful:

he cuts away here, he smooths there,

he makes his line lighter, the other purer,

until a lovely face has grown upon his work.

So do you also:

cut away all that is excessive,

straighten all that is crooked,

bring light to all that is overcast,

labor to make all one glow of beauty

and never cease chiselling your statue,

until there shall shine out on you from it

the godlike splendor of virtue,

until you shall see the perfect goodness

surely established in the stainless shrine.

Plotinus, Ennead I

The New Year is about fourteen hours away as I sit and think over what I want to send out to my readers. The Christmas holiday was just as warm as the unseasonable St. Louis temperatures as I enjoyed the annual gathering of our family members from far and wide. Now I find myself planted in temperate Texas, leaning toward 2020 with its inviting possibilities.

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Two fresh starts of steam locomotive watercolors

I open the New Year, not only with new beginnings of paintings, but fresh reading and musings over the subject of beauty. Not having majored in philosophy, I always sensed my eyes glazing over when philosophy majors discussed theories of aesthetics. I suppose I am still the late bloomer. I loved making art since childhood, and in graduate years loved the study of ideas, but never really pondered theories of beauty while studying and teaching art history. Only recently have I ventured into this area of thinking.

Over Christmas break, I opened a Greek text on Plotinus I ordered recently and began translating some of the key ideas he recorded about beauty. I posted the one above, because I love how the writer challenges the artist to refine his/her own character as a prerequisite to understanding beauty in art. And as I lean into the New Year, and write resolutions, I now focus on cleaning, refining, editing, polishing and improving features in my art as well as my life.

A trip to the local public library placed in my hands Kant’s The Critique of Judgement. I never opened this volume before, and never had any inclination to do so until the day after Christmas when I picked up from a used bookstore a copy of Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man In A Series of Letters. Opening this volume in the store, I was immediately grasped by the passion of this young man’s writing (he was thirty-three when he began the letters), and as I looked into his ten-year correspondence with Goethe on this subject, I knew I was hooked. For nearly a week now, I have been immersed in this collection of twenty-seven letters written to a young prince. Kant’s book had just been published three years before these letters, and Kant’s aesthetics poured the foundation for Schiller’s own theory on beauty. So I am now juggling my time between both these books while still translating from Plotinus. I see now why it is a good thing that I don’t have a teaching contract for the spring semester; I won’t be interrupted by school tasks as I sort out these fresh ideas.

Among my many resolutions, I plan to pour more energy into my new website (www.davidtrippart.com), and be more faithful to this blog.

Thanks for reading, Happy New Year, and don’t cease chiselling your statue.

Shultz reducedI make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

z portrait of me

Goethe’s Final Words: “More Light.”

December 25, 2019

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg8pN4GjvxI

On Christmas morning, I was handed a smart phone with the YouTube video from Northern Exposure featuring the local radio DJ making a stunning statement before the town before plugging in a spectacular Christmas light display. Last night, just as it was getting dark, I drove through the High Ridge suburbs to find and photograph the lawn scene that makes me laugh every year–the lighted figures are literally shoulder-to-shoulder, covering every square foot of the residence’s front yard.

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High Ridge, Missouri version of the Griswold Family Christmas

I love the Northern Exposure recitation because the DJ opens with Goethe’s final words, “More Light”. And during this Christmas season, I wish for the darkness of our nation to find light. I am reminded of the passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Last night I went to church with my brother. The small Methodist church was packed to capacity, the service was lovely, and we closed by taking candles out into the night and standing in a large cluster, lighting up the darkness of House Springs, Missouri. The experience was a perfect way to prepare for Christmas Eve.

Back home with my parents, siblings, and our grown children, we had the best of possible evenings–abundant food and conversation, gift exchanges, and later a raucous time around the large table playing a ridiculous card game, Pounce. I surreptitiously recorded some of the rounds with my smart phone, and we laughed hard and long, listening to the replays. I will not post them on this site.

Last week I worked on four 8 x 10″ watercolors and installed them in 16 x 20″ frames for my immediate family members. I posted Dad’s then, but now post all four of them below along with what I wrote and included inside the Christmas cards accompanying them:

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Sister’s Gift

Grand Canyon Storm

The summer of 2019 invited the aged painter to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Perched high atop the gorge, he painted quickly as the dark clouds advanced, and took his chances when the first jagged branch of lightning carved its way toward the rocks below. The storm was twenty miles away and would not arrive for another hour. The only thing an artist needed to do was savor the colors and interpret the developing story approaching him.

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Brother’s Gift

Blues Jam

A pair of aging blues troubadours played deep into the night at the empty pool hall. Slouched in his chair, Donnie blew mournfully into his harp, swaying to the blues progressions dancing off the strings of Rick’s Fender Strat. No words were sung this time. The blues tune told the story to anyone listening this night.

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Mom’s Gift

No One Swings Today

No one will sit on the porch swing this summer day. Along with the house, it has received its fresh coat of paint and now hangs quietly in the afternoon porch shadows while it waits for the McNeely clan’s arrival tomorrow for the 4th of July. Meanwhile, in the quiet of the day, the flowers stretch toward the sunlight, bursting with new color to greet the family.

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Dad’s Gift

Fishing Rhapsody

The solitary figure of a fisherman stands beside the river in his overalls and wading boots, cap pulled low, white beard glowing in the morning sunlight. Canopies of verdant trees engulf him as he lingers on the sloping bank, rod held low before him. Golden sun-dappled waters flow past him and the bright sky reflects a winding path down the center of the channel. Layers of pebbles, flat rocks and bubbles shimmer below the surface of the babbling waters as schools of fish lounge in the shadows beneath. The fisherman continues to stand and survey the waters while the murmurs of the river speak its language from the foundation of time.

Now, as I sit at the hotel room desk and write these things, it is Christmas morning and I hope with all my heart that today will bring Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.

Thanks always for reading, and I hope your Christmas is the Best.

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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Sacred Holiday Solitude

December 20, 2019

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Working on Christmas Plans early in the Morning

When a summer breeze blows through an open window as we sit reading in a rare half-hour of quiet, we might recall one of the hundreds of annunciations painters have given us, reminding us that it is the habit of angels to visit in moments of silent reading.

Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

The week has passed so quickly. Daily I have entered the studio before daylight and worked till dinnertime. I set out a goal to create four Christmas gift watercolors in four days, and thankfully the goal was met. My father doesn’t access the Internet, so I’m confident he won’t see this painting I did for him. The others I will keep concealed till after they’re given at Christmas. I have titled this one “Fishing Rhapsody” and wrote something about it to enclose in a Christmas card:

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“Fishing Rhapsody”

The solitary figure of a fisherman stood beside the river in his overalls and wading boots, cap pulled low, white beard showing in the morning sunlight. Canopies of verdant trees engulfed him as he waited on the pebbled sloping bank, rod held low before him. The golden sun-dappled waters of the river flowed before him as the bright sky reflected a winding path down the center of the channel. Layers of pebbles, flat rocks and bubbles shimmered below the surface of the babbling waters as schools of fish lingered in the shadows. The fisherman continued to stand and survey the waters while the murmurs of the river continued speaking its language from the foundation of time.

The other gifts also have written tributes and I believe I’ll post them on this blog after Christmas.

Though remaining relatively silent on the blog, the week has not been without its sublime moments. Every day I have worked long hours, planning, composing and painting in the studio, but I  have also taken out large blocks of time for reading, reflection and writing. Without those intermittent activities, painting, for me, becomes a mechanical chore and loses its joy. I posted the Thomas Moore quote at the top of this blog, echoing his sentiment about the loveliness of being visited by warm thoughts when reading something worthy and preparing the heart to do something creative.

I came across a passage extolling the values of film, television programs and popular music for stimulating creative eros, and would quickly add that reading quality literature could also be added to the mix:

All that is required to read them spiritually are the practices of hospitality and reverence, the ability to approach them as a religious person might enter a cathedral or temple–open to grace and mystery.

This comment mirrors what I knew long ago while serving in the pastoral ministry. I made it a practice to study the Bible daily, shutting myself off from the public and seeking ways to meditate, to ruminate over the written texts, expecting to receive a divine word. That practice has remained with me despite leaving the ministry in the mid-1980’s, only now I read widely and still meditate over what I encounter when reading texts in a spirit of reverence and expectation. The Greek word logos that we translate “word”, according to Martin Heidegger could be rendered “the gathering together.” For years I have mused over this notion of logos, or logic. I think of order, structure, arrangement, cohesion–the sentiment that life has a way of organizing itself, of coming together, of working out–this notion gives me hope and confidence from one day to the next. And this week has been so affirming to my soul as I have read, written and painted. A number of details in life that are important to me seem to be working out, and for that I am grateful. This has been a satisfying week.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will check out my 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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The Morning Visitation

December 19, 2019

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The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great.

Meister Eckhart

My blog has been on hiatus for about a week, due to travel and working on commission projects that I don’t wish to post publicly till they are complete. The Christmas season is closing in fast, and I still have preparations and more travel before me. But this morning’s reading was accompanied by a spiritual visitation that has given me pause to write.

The opening quote from a 13th-century divine lingers, adding a sweetness to the atmosphere that embraces me as I attempt to express what is happening . . . Working through the past three days on four separate watercolors at the same time has scrambled my mind and imagination in unusual ways. The four separate genres have kept my attention shifting as I continually lay aside a wet one and resume work on one of the other dry ones. Rotating the pieces frequently throughout the mornings and afternoons of the past three days has kept me on my toes. The four genres are unrelated, so I feel that I am changing the subject several times on the hour throughout the working day.

While viewing the four in-progress paintings, my mind has continually gone back and forth between the techniques and theories involved in making art. In previous posts, I have shared how this reltationship continues to drive my thinking, and recent forays into the writings of Robert Henri have added more fuel to the fire.

To put it succinctly: as a college art major long ago, I focused only on mechanics to making art. Underlying theories had no place in my thinking. Once the Bachelors degree was completed, I dove headlong into graduate school, studying theology, and a Renaissance of thought bloomed. The next ten years were devoted to academic pursuits, and almost no art was made. Upon completion of my doctorate I immediately entered the classroom, and once I settled in to the rhythm of study and class delivery, I returned to making art. So much had changed over the years. For the first time in my life, there was this multi-layered foundation beneath my art. Formerly, I had considered only technique. Then I devoted a decade to theory. Now I find myself lost in the relationship that binds the two: ideas and mechanics, theory and practice, aesthetics and craftsmanship. I am still lost in the wilderness of this relationship, and I love the effort of finding my way.

Long intervals open up between my projects, but I am almost never blocked. Rather, I am consumed with reading and listening to media, feeding my creative fire. And though I am all-too-capable of turning out a bad piece of art, I never feel that the art is “puny” to borrow the translation from Meister Eckhart. A less-than-favorable piece of art might issue from a fumble, a stumble, or bad choices, but I never feel the work is enemic. Rather, the decades of study, growth and odyssey can only enrich these expressions. And I lean forward to the next endeavor.

Meanwile, I have four watercolors I need to finish by Christmas, so the time has come to close this blog and get back into the studio.

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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The Prophet Crying in the Wilderness

December 14, 2019

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There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Visitations early this morning from the spirit of Robert Henri have filled me to overflowing. Reading from his slected writings, I came across the remarks posted above. I know those sentiments fully. From childhood, art has been that portal allowing me “to see beyond the usual.” Visual art has been that gateway to worlds beyond the ordinary. And this morning, I am filled with that spirit of discovery once again.

Robert Henri, for The Eight, was John the Baptist for the first disciples, that prophet crying in the wilderness. In Philadelphia in the early 1890’s, his apartment at 806 Walnut Street was the largest small room in the world, where teenage illustrators gathered to hear this twenty-seven-year-old read to them from Emerson, Whitman, Chekhov and Tolstoy. Henri urged fresh vision as these painters turned away from established European styles of painting and toward everyday scenes they encountered in the streets. Though their homes were anchored in the urban, the prophetic cry of Henri came from the wilderness wasteland, and their inner souls sensed limitless space for imagination and new experiments in painting.

I devoted the first part of my morning to sitting at the sunlit window of my studio and reading Henri’s observations over several cups of coffee. I couldn’t have chosen a better activity. Now, paintings are waiting on the drafting tables, three of them actually. And I am in the mood to lean into them.

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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Time to Return to the Waiting Paintings

Productivity vs. Creativity

December 13, 2019

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There’s a pervasive myth, shared by artists and non-artists alike, that art is a product of genius, madness or serendipity. Wrong. Art is not the chance offspring of some cosmic (or genetic) roll of the dice. Art is mostly a product of hard work. When you look back on the results of a lifetime of artmaking, even the role that talent played is insignificant. Living life productively, however, is very significant. If you learn to live your life productively, your atwork will take care of itself. If you do not live your life productively, nothing will save your artwork–not even talent. One of the less-advertised truths about artmaking is that it’s more important to be productive than to be creative. If you’re productive, your creativity will take care of itself. If you are not productive–well, if you’re not productive, then how exactly is it you intend to be ceative?

Ted Orland, The View From the Studio Door

My response to the more than one dozen works-in-progress spread across my bed was to begin work on three new watercolors last evening. Train commissions. One of many reasons I enjoy the Christmas holidays is patrons ordering paintings to give as gifts. I always feel good inside when working on something requested by a patron, but even better when I know the warmth that goes into Christmas giving. As it turns out, none of these three have Christmas deadlines, so the removal of that pressure makes this even better. I would still be happy to turn them out before the New Year arrives.

Re-opening the Ted Orland book this morning brought me to the passage quoted above. I can never emphasize this enough when talking to emerging artists: productivity yields the quality we seek. Long ago, I fretted over whether I was talented enough to pursue this. Once I got over that fear and began pushing out works of art, I found my work improving, and feel that I learn something new with every single painting I attempt.

I never tire of posting this passage from an article in Newsweek, June 28, 1993, “The Puzzle of Genius”:

The creative geniuses of art and science work obsessively. They do not lounge under apple trees waiting for fruit to fall or lightning to strike. “When inspiration does not come to me,” Freud once said, “I go halfway to meet it.” Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Though most composers would kill to have written even one of his best pieces, some were little more than wallpaper music. Eliot’s numerous drafts of “The Waste Land” constitute what one scholar called “a jumble of good and bad passages [that he turned] into a poem.” In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more “bad” ones. They produced. Period.

I repeatedly meet individuals who describe themselves as “frustrated artists.” This  frequently means they have talent, but never get around to making art. My response is: if you have no work to show, who cares about your talent? In the year 2010, Jason Horejs (Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona) got my attention while giving a public talk, saying the only questions gallery directors have of prospective artists is: “Are you productive? How many works per year do you turn out?” From that year forward, I have created at least one hundred pieces per year, many of them small ones, no doubt, but dozens worthy of framing and presenting. I honestly believe this past decade has been my finest, and I look forward to seeing how much futther I can push things in 2020.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.Shultz reduced

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Fumbling

December 12, 2019

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Thursday Morning at my Desk

Inspiration is for amateurs. We professionals just go to work in the morning.

Chuck Close, quoted by Christoph Niemann, illustrator on Abstract: The Art of Design (Netflix)

I’m not a big believer in the books and courses that advocate creativity rituals, altar making and mask making to get unstuck and get started. Maybe that stuff works. I don’t know. They just seem like more strategies to avoid getting on with it.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Thursday morning has been spent mostly floundering about, since I have reached the rare point in my life of waking to no deadlines or appointments. I posted the college grades yesterday, so the semester has ended, and I find myself without a contract for the spring semester. This is completely new; I have taught college as an adjunct nearly every semester since 1985, and when I retired from my full-time public school career after twenty-eight years, I still had college courses to teach. Now I have nothing in the classroom or online until at least next fall, or perhaps never. Maybe that door has closed. Today I’m trying to absorb that reality. Making art and engaging in scholarly activity are the dual aspects that have defined me for over three decades. The two activities have fed off one another, and have in turn produced a dual life of private solitude balanced with a public forum. The public will still be around with respect to art shows and art workshops. But I now consider the possibility of no longer speaking in a classroom or lecture hall over subjects including art history, philosophy, religion and literature. Oh well, I’m not writing this in sadness, just musing aloud over what’s next.

I have always dreamed of a day like today (fully retired, instead of semi), and now that it has finally arrived, I find myself fumbling. Soon I’ll depart for holiday travels to be with friends and family, but I won’t have a job to return to in January. Strange. The next firm commitment on my calendar is a one-man-show opening in February which now feels years away on the horizon. In the meantime, my new website now has a PayPal component added so patrons can make purchases of my limited editions online. I have wanted that capability for years and am very pleased that the day has finally arrived:

www.davidtrippart.com

The website now includes stories I have written for some of my paintings. I hope you will take the time to read some of them and give me feedback. I’ve been thinking for years about the possibilities of writing and illustrating a book of short stories about an American town.

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New panels prepared alongside works in progress

After a morning of reading and journaling, I rose from my desk and went into the studio to stretch five new watercolor surfaces. I prefer to soak and stretch ninety-pound coldpress watercolor paper over canvas stretchers. No matter how wet they get during my watercolor activity, they always shrink-dry and are nice and flat when complete. Then I remove them for framing and re-use the stretcher bars for future watercolors. I have three new commissions out in front of me, so I have just completed the mindless chore of preparing the surfaces.

Now as for the quotes that open this blog: I have always been a dreamer and have thrived on inspiration for writing and making art. But I find myself laughing when someone writes making fun of rituals designed to inspire creativity. As I have written before, I derive most of my inspiration for art and writing from what I read. Excellent books that I return to again and again include Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity; Robert Henri, The Art Spirit; David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear; and Ted Orland, The View from the Studio Door. 

But I feel my face turning red when I hear amusing stories such as the one about Keith Richards in the basement, riffing on his guitar and doping, waiting for inspiration, while the Rolling Stones wait impatiently in the studio upstairs. This morning found me pacing around the house, drinking coffee, sitting at my desk scribbling in the journal, turning on the TV to watch “Abstract” on Netflix, arranging my supplies on the drafting table, stretching watercolor paper at the sink, all the time wondering how to launch a day of creative exploits.

I also printed and matted new copies of a watercolor I did a couple of years ago. A patron has just ordered an 8 x 10″ matted copy, so I got that one out of the way. This is a piece I had forgotten about, and thanks to social media, someone in Dallas notified me to find out if it was still available. It is.

bass lure try again

A New Print Ready. 8 x 10″ in 11 x 14″ mat. $25

So. Back to this notion of inspiration, altar building, preparing the artist to create. I would love to hear from anyone your ideas on this. I have dozens of rituals I put in play when I get stuck. And then sometimes I just get out the materials and go to work. Since I’ve always been employed one way or another, I have worked around an appointment calendar to create something. Now, without that structural calendar, I find myself casting about for some notion of how to fill up these unstructured days. This new freedom, I must say, is dizzying. So tell me, how do you go about your creative enterprise? Do you have a system, a structure? Do you have ways to light your creative fires when you are not in the mood to produce anything? I love hearing from other artists, writers and creative spirits. And I love to hear of “starter rituals”. Let me know how you do what you do.

I close with this quote from Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman: “Writers write so they will have something to read; painters paint so they will have something to look at.”

Thanks always 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.

bass lure try again

 

 

Slowing Down and Savoring the Gift

December 9, 2019

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Precious Monday Morning Silence

The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

With overwhelming gratitude, I entered my suite at the Redlands Hotel last night after breaking down the weekend Christmas Show, loading, then driving two hours back to Palestine from Dallas. Deciding not to set an alarm, I slept in this morning, but woke from dreams so distressing that it took nearly an hour of wandering around the suite before I could shake the troubles loose and return to my comfort zone, pictured above.

At that moment, I changed my plans of departing by noon for my home. Instead, I am spending the entire day in the Gallery at Redlands, taking my time with the unloading of the Jeep and restocking the gallery, and making sure I give plenty of time for thanksgiving and reflection over the warm weekend I experienced at the Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Show at the Sons of Hermann Hall. This is my third year joining this assembly of twenty-or-so artists,  and their love has been so affirming for me during the holiday season. My pulse has finally slowed down, and I am reading quality material and thinking good thoughts. I’m glad the troubling dreams prompted me to slow down, linger, and enjoy this gift of life.

I posted the Emerson quote above because it reminds me of something I had been taught in earlier years about the thought of Immanuel Kant, the Prussian philosopher who crowned the Age of the Enlightenment. He wrote volumes about the way in which our internal mind organizes external stimuli. As an artist, I will never tire of studying this. While sitting through the weekend show, I continued my reading from Sir Joshua Reynolds, and yesterday came across this same idea of the artist organizing the data received from the world:

My notion of nature comprehends not only the forms which nature produces, but also the nature and internal fabrick and organization, as I may call it, of the human mind and imagination.

These words were delivered December 10, 1776. Tomorrow will mark the 243rd anniversary of their delivery into our intellectual atmosphere. This morning, refreshing these words in my journal, I decided to write a blog to discuss my core values regarding the making of art. As I present this, I want the reader to know that I am not trying to tell others how they should approach art. I love the diversity, the expansive constellation of creative spirits that comprise the artist network, and will never cease loving to hear of their perspectives. So, if you would like to respond to this blog, please let me know about your approach to art. I listen, and learn from others. Tell me how you approach this enterprise.

I shall begin by saying that my chief inspiration for art comes from my reading, listening to YouTube lectures, and observing objects with my eye. Though I gladly teach workshops, I don’t enroll in them to learn the techniques of others. At my age of sixty-five, I have already added a number of tools to my toolbox, and still add new ones as I discover them in my own laboratory, or hear from an artistic friend, or read of some new tool. But I do not focus on the tools of the trade nearly as much as I do the philosophical framework of art in the abstract. Hence, my ideas come from reading broadly, and I delight in the essay, the biography, poetry, history, philosophy, theology–all of these areas add contours and accents to what I am assembling.

At my age, I have also cut back severely on competition. Entering competitions requires money and following rules that sometimes are not my own. I don’t like an organization dictating to me the specifications of framing, or telling me that if I use India Ink (which I have done with two of the last one hundred paintings), that it must be less than a certain percentage of the surface area. I have also grown tired of researching the judge to find out what genre s/he prefers when handing out awards. And finally, I have never once sold a painting hanging in a competition, though I paid out money to enter and frame it.

Which leads to the next item: I am not pursuing “signature status” of any particular watercolor society. I already have a doctorate, and have never included Ph.D. in my signature. So why would I want to put initials following my signature to signify I have “status” with a professional watercolor agency?

Which leads to the next item: At my age, I no longer worry over my resume. I have deactivated my status with Linked In because I am not seeking a job. I am retired. I am no longer thirty years old. I have a very lengthy resume, and was required to update it for the university once a year, but now I am not at a university, and frankly, I never opened and read my resume unless I was required to update and send it somewhere. For me personally, resumes are boring. I never read them. Ever. Because I am not on some hiring board that is required to evaluate someone else’s credentials.

OK. So I have poured out some paragraphs of what I am not. Now, what am I exactly? This is the more difficult part of my confession. To start with, I am still a dreamer. I still have the fascination I had when I was four years old, standing in my yard alone on a breezy day, feeling caressed by the world, feeling observed while I was observing, and wanting in some way to respond to that Presence. That little boy is still in me, and I still tremble before the Presence.

My life is still a narrative, from one moment to the next, on any typical day. A story is always emerging from me, and the people who surround me continually pour stories into my imagination. Words they speak frequently put images in my head for paintings. Paintings are also revealed to me by the landscape, and by objects. My brain is drained from exhaustion when I spend hours in a museum, an antique store, a bookstore, or a lengthy walk through a different neighborhood. Everything I encounter puts out a call to create a drawing or painting.

Throughout my days, I sense a continual internal dialogue with other creative spirits who have long ago departed this planet–Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, N. C. Wyeth, Paul Tillich, Robert Motherwell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau. I continually return to their written and visual works because they created them to communicate with others, and I am honored to be counted among their listeners. And every time I complete something I feel is worthy, I breathe a prayer of thanks to them for their continued encouragement.

Though I have slowed down today, my art and furniture are not going to unload themselves, so I suppose the time has come to begin the task of re-organizing the gallery and tending to business affairs that need to be addressed today. But thank you for taking the time to read me, and please, if you have ideas you wish to share, I would love to read them, and I am certain many of my readers would as well.

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Thanks again 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.