Good Morning from The Gallery at Redlands

January 7, 2023

For then I saw

That fires, not I,

Burn down and die;

That flare of gold

Turns old, turns cold.

Not I. I grow.

May Sarton, from “On a Winter Night”

I managed to go downstairs into the gallery by 8:00 this morning. Eschewing my custom of going to the desk to read, I went directly to the drafting table, picked up my brush and pencils, and completely rendered the harp player that was only a line drawing last evening.

Now I’m enjoying coffee and reading from a magnificent book acquired recently, Richard Lacayo’s Last Light: How Six Great Artists Made Old Age a Time of Triumph. This is not a self-help book. I didn’t purchase it because of a diminished art output or interest lately; I was just curious to read about the “winter years” of artists including Hopper, Goya, Titian and Matisse.

German art historian A. E. Brinckmann identified elements he referred to as altersstil (old-age style), and I was struck by his observation of “a reduction of forms to their essences and a preference for unfinished surfaces.” I have been moving in that direction, not because I read of it from another artist, but because of my fascination with Xie-He’s “Six Canons of Painting.” I have wanted to go to the “spirit essence” or “vital force” of subjects I paint, and spend less time with the peripheral elements of the scene. I’ve been happier to leave blank spaces for the viewer’s imagination to fill with whatever s/he perceives in the narrative I’m illustrating. Throughout the years, looking back at photos I’ve taken of works in progress, I nearly always like my paintings better when they are about 60% complete. My framed, finished works (to me) often appear over-worked.

The May Sarton poem at the top of this blog opens this book that I’m now reading. The words stirred me profoundly. I’m grateful that life and art have not diminished for me in these retirement years. It was always my hope that I could harvest something sublime from these years after all that time spent working a job to please others.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Working Friday Night in The Gallery at Redlands

January 6, 2023

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

Friedrich Hölderlin, letter written December 2, 1802

My sentiments match Hölderlin’s as I work on this watercolor tonight in The Gallery at Redlands. We stay open till 9:00, so I still have another hour, and have decided to let this painting rest till the morning and settle into some comfortable reading before I shut down and go upstairs for the night.

Though January usually brings a considerable drop in business, the gallery has been busier than normal throughout this day and evening. Still I managed to squeeze out some quality time to study and continue work on this painting. In my previous work (pictured below), I featured the ghost of Lightnin’ Hopkins walking the rails with his guitar. This bluesman actually played in a juke joint in Crockett, Texas, thirty minutes down the road. A life-size bronze of him playing guitar graces the park across the street from the establishment where he played the blues.

The watercolor I am working on now features a seated guitarist. I’m using David Honeyboy Edwards as my model for this fellow. Beside him, playing harp is Don Gallia. I met him a few years ago while participating in the Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Show at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas. Part of that festival’s tradition was “Church in the Bar.” An hour before opening, artists gathered for worship on Sunday morning in the barroom of the Hall. Don played harp masterfully as he accompanied guitarists leading the music part of the services. I decided to insert him into this composition.

It is nearly time to close the gallery for the night. I’ll return to open around 8 tomorrow morning and remain open till 9 p.m. I’m looking forward now to going upstairs to cozy up to a good book and read myself to sleep.

Thanks for reading.

A Quiet Evening Painting in Studio Eidolons

January 4, 2023

Remember that art is process. The process is supposed to be fun. For our purposes, “the journey is always the only arrival” may be interpreted to mean that our creative work is actually our creativity itself at play in the field of time. At the heart of this play is the mystery of joy.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Julia nailed that one. During this quiet winter night, I have known exquisite delight, bent over the drafting table, working on some of the exacting details called on by this composition. When I get lost in a painting, I have no idea whether I have worked for 15 minutes or two hours. Time elides.

Paddington has curled up to slumber in the chair beside my drafting table. The presence of the Christmas tree continues to soothe my spirits as well. I cannot dial up a better environment for watercoloring. More tomorrow . . .

Thanks for reading.

Paddington Under the Writing Desk

January 3, 2023

January 3, 2023 still brings contentment inside Studio Eidolons. The early part of my morning I savored at my desk while Paddington napped underneath. Then I returned to work on my latest Palestine blues watercolor. Signage and foliage are slowing me way, way down, but there is no deadline for this; I’m working at my own leisurely pace and enjoying every stroke of the brush and pencil.

My reading this morning mined genuine gold from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I found it timely because I find myself again scratching my head in the midst of a large, complex watercolor, unsure of what to try next:

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

Agnes de Mille

Thanks for reading.

Ideas of the Creative Eros from Goethe and Friends

January 2, 2023

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

The New Year finds me resurrecting an old practice abandoned some time ago–Julia Cameron’s concept of The Morning Pages. With this practice, you begin the day by writing out longhand three pages of junk as rapidly as possible to prime your mind for the flow of ideas. This task takes me anywhere from 17-20 minutes to complete, and once done, I throw away the pages and start anew with ideas spilling out faster than I can scribble them into my journal. This morning’s activity catapulted me back into my reading of Faust which then led to Heidegger’s essay “On the Origin of the Work of Art.

The Faust quote posted above reminded me of the watercolor I’m now pursuing (also posted above), a blues theme set in Palestine, Texas that has me bemused as I stare into the complex tangle of spring foliage, power lines and deep shadows. The last time I found myself perusing texts from favorite books in an attempt to solve problems involving color, composition and landscape subjects was summer 2015 when I spent a week on the Texas Laguna Madre as Artist-in-Residence. I had taken to the island the essay by Heidegger and was arrested by his quote from German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

Albrecht Dűrer did after all make the well-known remark: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” “Wrest” here means to draw out the rift and to draw the design with the drawing-pen on the drawing board. . . . True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.

The communion I enjoyed with this trio of great minds inspired me to scribble out some new ideas I’m ready to apply to this current watercolor. As I enjoyed thinking and writing out the new theories, Julia Cameron joined in on the dialogue with the following (from her book The Artist’s Way):

Once you accept that it is natural to create, you can begin to accept a second idea–that the creator will hand you whatever you need for the project. The minute you are willing to accept the help of this collaborator, you will see useful bits of help everywhere in your life. Be alert: there is a second voice, a higher harmonic, adding to and augmenting your inner creative voice. This voice frequently shows itself in synchronicity.

Participating in this Great Conversation this morning has energized me. My heartfelt thanks to Goethe, Heidegger, Dűrer and Cameron for caring enough to write out their ideas to share with other hungry, kindred spirits seeking to create.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Beginning 2023

January 1, 2023

Behold that which I have seen; it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him; for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-19. King James Version

The first day of the New Year finds me in my usual contented space–seated in bed with my coffee, my loving companion, slumbering dogs and a pile of books and journal. With a snicker, I refer to this as “Executive Time.” With sincerity, I refer to it as “Centering Time.”

Since January 1, 1973, my ritual is to read from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The one pastor I knew throughout my formative years in church was an able administrator, but not much of a pulpit presence. Throughout my public schooling, he preached “over my head.” I could not stay with his sermons. All that changed when I came home from college my first Christmas for the holidays. Attending a New Year’s Eve service, I listened intently for the first time as he preached from Ecclesiastes. That moment remains one of the major hinges of my life.

I recommend this urgently to all people I know who read–read Ecclesiastes, at least the first chapter. If that doesn’t get your attention, then close the book. It will seem darkly existential. An aged writer who ruled over Jerusalem seems to conclude that nothing matters–all is empty and meaningless. Everything passes. There is nothing new under the sun. Pleasures do not endure. This meditation goes on for twelve chapters. An aged man seems to assess that his life has accomplished nothing significant.

But he closes the book with this:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

The King James Version italicizes the words that are supplied by the translators to smooth out the translation. Most of the time this is a good thing, but not in this case. Remove the italicized words and Voila! It completes this book magnificently.

For twelve chapters, the constant refrain is “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” The Preacher tells his readers that all of life is empty, without meaning. Empty. Empty. Empty. Then comes the final word–Fearing God and keeping the commandments is his answer. It makes one Whole.

For anyone having trouble with language concerning God and commandments, let me offer this. The two statements refer to God–the Sublime, to the Origin, to the Source, and the commandments–how you treat people. Look to your Source and treat people as you should. This makes you whole. This removes the emptiness.

Thanks for reading.

New Year’s Eve Ponderings

December 31, 2022

Selfie taken while in delightful seclusion

My watercolor of the selfie, titled “Heidegger’s Hut”

What I was painting during the Selfie, titled “Beyond the Door”

Oh god, art is forever,

And our life is brief.

I fear that with my critical endeavor

My head and heart may come to grief.

How hard the scholars’ means are to array

With which one works up to the source;

Before we have traversed but half the course,

We wretched devils pass away.

Goethe, Faust

The clock at Sacred Heart across the street has chimed nine times. That means it’s 7:00 a.m. I’ll never tire of laughing over this Palestine morning ritual I have come to adore.

The Christmas and New Year holidays have taken me unprepared. I suppose that is due partly to my parents’ coming down with COVID as we were preparing our trip back home which had to be postponed. I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas in January in St. Louis soon.

For decades now, I have enjoyed the season of turning “pensive” when the New Year approaches, and I have always burrowed into some kind of quality reading as the season arrived. But this year I have struggled to find something substantive into which to sink my thoughts. Until last night. I pulled Faust from my backpack and sat up in bed re-reading the text until time to turn out the light. And now this morning, I have opened it again.

The photographs above were taken several years back when I enjoyed days of retreat and solitude at this old country store/residence owned by my friends who opened The Gallery at Redlands just after I completed the paintings. They both hang in the gallery now, providing me with quality company while I work the gallery. One is titled “Heidegger’s Hut” because I was always absorbed by the stories of philosopher Martin Heidegger retreating to his cabin the Black Forest to write his famous books, preferring those times of solitude away from the university. The title “Beyond the Door” was selected because I spent an entire night in the old store painting the door knob that separated the residence from the store proper. As I studied the knob under the light and worked out this watercolor, I was thinking of my final year in education, wondering what would lie beyond the door of retirement.

During my final year of teaching public school, I often retreated to this old store for long weekends and holidays to get away from the rat race of school that was beginning to dog me in the final years. It was during the winter when I took the photo and worked on the pair of paintings that I began reading Faust for the first time in my life. I had read about Goethe in a number of courses throughout my education but had not actually sat down to read this magnificent work.

The wonders that rocked my soul while pondering this electric text were scribbled into my journals, and soon buried upon my return to the classroom. Until now. And with great delight, I welcome the New Year and a new chapter in life by burrowing into Goethe once again.

Thought struggling to find a book to hold my attention in recent weeks, I have gone back and re-read stacks of my personal journals, dating all the way back to 1985. Focusing on December months, I came to realize that my pangs of intellectual and artistic hunger during those years were Faustlike in many ways. The holidays of 1987 were the bleakest in my entire life, and I’m glad upon reading the journal from that period that I still believed in those years that life would improve for me. No matter how bleak my existence was in those days, I still leaned forward, believing that some kind of redemption was at hand. I’m deeply thankful for how life has turned out now, and am happy that I no longer have to eke out the existence I knew back then.

I’m making considerable headway on a large watercolor, the next installment of my “Palestine Blues” series. I haven’t posted photos yet, because the page is covered with clouds and layers of billowing watercolor, and it’s looking more like a Helen Frankenthaler painting than a Tripp watercolor. Once it comes into focus, I’ll begin posting photos of its progress.

Thanks for reading, and please enjoy a safe and happy New Year celebration!

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts from The Gallery at Redlands

December 30, 2022

To think is to confine yourself to a

single thought that one day stands

still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Greetings from The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. We will be closing our doors for a two-week vacation in January, but I am in the gallery from now till New Year’s Eve.

Palestine is quiet, dark and rainy on this Friday morning. Yesterday I began Part Two of my Palestine Blues Series. So far all I have done is draw and masque as I lay the foundations for this large watercolor. My hope is to add color before this day is through. Masquing, for me, is a very slow and tedious endeavor as I use it to highlight heavy tree foliage, block utility poles so they will be light against the dark background, and string out a myriad of power lines in and out of the tree branches. Slow work indeed. Once the masquing and drawing are complete, I plan to pour several layers of watercolor across the paper before I actually get down to the detail work of the painting.

I hope to blog some more today and tomorrow as I work in the gallery. Before I close, I want to wish all my readers optimism as you lean forward into this new year dawning.

I managed to create a new greeting card from my most recent painting of the Clydesdales. These measure 5 x 7″, are blank on the inside with my text on the back. Complete with envelope and enclosed in a plastic sleeve, these are priced at $5 each or five for $20.

Thanks for reading.

Clydesdales Completed

December 26, 2022

Christmas 2022 was altered sharply, but all has come out well. My mother was hospitalized with COVID and pneumonia, but now is back home and feeling much better. We have decided to travel to St. Louis for Christmas in January, once Mom and Dad have had time to regather their strength post-COVID. I had not experienced Christmas Day in my own home in well over a decade and I really enjoyed this one. We picked up half a cord of wood before the foul weather descended and have now spent several days in front of a fire place with coffee and TV and I got in some quality time in Studio Eidolons. The Clydesdales have been completed and I’m thrilled with the way the snow effect turned out.

From my childhood, seated in front of a black-and-white TV, I was spellbound when our local station identification featured the Clydesdales bursting out of the Grant’s Farm gates. My fascination with them has never subsided. Years ago in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, I was seated in the Barnes & Noble Cafe, which was sunken below street level. Engaged in reading over coffee (still one of my favorite past times), my eye detected unusual movement on the street outside my window. Looking up I was astonished to see the Clydesdales pulling the Budweiser wagon, coming towards me! I could never describe the emotions and sense of awe that overwhelmed me as I saw that great sight approaching. I knew then that one day I would settle in to render them in watercolor.

From the beginning of this watercolor endeavor, I was flummoxed. I knew I wanted to begin with cold winter trees in the background. Unsure of my colors, I relied mostly on Cobalt Blue and Ultramarine, But how would I capture the network and general “movement” of the trees? I kept thinking of Xie-He and his Canons–the “spirit essence” of the cold, dense forest. Using the Richeson Medium Liquid Masque, I spattered the background with a toothbrush. Then I took out an assortment of double-end clay shapers and tried some Jackson Pollock scribbles all over the background. Once the pigments were settled and dried, I scraped off the masquing and left it alone. Then I used the toothbrush to spatter liquid masque all over the horses, hoping that once the painting was finished and masquing scraped that it would simulate blowing snow. It worked!

The most difficult part was untangling the congeries of heads, bodies, legs, and rigging of the horses. I felt like I was assembling a jigsaw puzzle, an endless tangle of shapes and colors. I tried not to think of the overall design of the horses and riggings, but rather concentrated on each fragment of shaped color, all the time hoping that once the masquing came off that it would look like a gaggle of behemoth horses high-stepping through the snow. I think my largest fear was fogging out the legs of the rear horses once I defined a few of the leaders’ legs. I finally laid the brush down and decided enough was enough; I have killed many watercolors by overworking and overdetailing them. Hopefully I stopped at the right time here.

What’s next? I’ll certainly have this custom framed and determine a price for it. The image alone measures 12 x 15.5″. I’ve decided to have signed & numbered giclee prints made of it as well. They will be the same size as the original and will be priced at $100 each.

I have also ordered signed & numbered giclee prints of my “Palestine Blues” watercolor. A number of these have already sold and are priced at $100. I’m glad for the reproductions because the original was sold even before it was completed.

Today is December 26, but it still feels like Christmas and I am glad. We put up the tree in my studio and I plan to keep it lighted for quite awhile.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Happy Holiday Adjustments

December 22, 2022

Finally settled into Studio Eidolons

I have been away from the blog for the longest time. The Gallery at Redlands is extremely busy during Polar Express season and we’ve been working hard at home, making preparations for our Christmas visit in St. Louis, my home town.

Everything changed abruptly. We were loading the car yesterday to depart for St. Louis when the news arrived. My parents both have COVID. Dad is 94 and Mom is 88. St. Louis is bracing for abhorrent winter storms. We reluctantly decided to cancel. Hours later, my Mom collapsed and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Pneumonia and COVID. The night was long. But this morning I was informed that she was OK to talk on the phone, and I got to visit with her awhile. She has improved, but is expected to stay several more days. At least our worst fears are suspended.

With the knowledge that Mom and Dad are somewhat OK in spite of the circumstances, I’m finally settling into the shock of a completely altered Christmas holiday. I have relaxed most of the day in Studio Eidolons, chipping away at a watercolor that has lay dormant for over a week. I’ve always wanted to attempt a painting of the Budweiser Clydesdales coming out of the gate at Grant’s Farm near where I grew up as a boy.

Back to work on the Budweiser Clydesdales

Enjoying the frigid night in the studio

While painting, I’m enjoying watching DVDs of Paper Chase, my favorite TV show during my graduate school years. I feel spoiled having everything I need here in the studio–my art supplies, TV, books and journal. With temperatures outside now hovering at 13 degrees, we have a nice fire in the fireplace, and I’ve resumed my reading of Marshall McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about his writing later.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.