Posts Tagged ‘Aristotle’

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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Coming Unto Our Own

July 16, 2015
Continued Work on the Laguna Madre Landscape

Continued Work on the Laguna Madre Landscape

. . . remember that decayed wood is not old, but has just begun to be what it is.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 19, 1842

Throughout my life, I have heard the laments of aging: the wry jokes as well as the moans. And in recent years I have noted the things I can no longer do effectively as I once did. But in recent months (and I hope this trend endures), my sentiments have flipped to the opposite side, and I have found delight in pleasures I could not appreciate when I was younger. I love to hear Thoreau write, in Aristotelian fashion, that as we age, sentiments emerge whose seeds have been in us all along. Existentialism urges you to “become what you are”, and Thoreau, a century earlier, already laid that principle down in his personal journal. Others have said the same throughout time. The presocratic philosopher Anaximander, in one of his fragments told of the end being already present in the beginning. T. S. Eliot wrote of the same. Aristotle said the ultimate purpose was contained in our infancy. Wordsworth wrote that the child is father to the man. I love that notion, and especially the reality that many of the sublime elements in our life experiences are not appreciated until we reach the later years.

Today, despite repeated interruptions and errands linked to the business side of art, I have worked in the studio as much as time would allow, experimenting with this Laguna Madre painting. I am probably done with the heavy foliage to the left of the Field Station, and am tinkering with the firewheels and sand in the foreground. The dock to the right and the horizon of the lagoon behind it are also requiring some close scrutiny. But I’m having fun, and that is what I enjoy most about watercoloring–the experimenting, the tinkering, and the slow emerging of a composition.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Art that Lies Within

April 4, 2015
Trying to Bring the Art that is "In Me" onto the Paper "Before Me"

Trying to Coax the Art that is “In Me” onto the Paper “Before Me”

“Do you know that the Enright House is the most beautiful building in New York?”

“I know that you know it.”

“Roark, you worked in that quarry when you had the Enright House in you, and many other Enright Houses, and you were drilling granite like a . . .”

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Despite the many long hours devoted over the past three days to gathering tax data for filing, I’m still finding a little time to paint as well as read and write in my journal. I loved coming across this dialogue tonight between Dominique and her lover/adversary Roark. In the philosopy classes, I try to stress Aristotle’s notion of potentiality, namely, that the oak tree is already inside the acorn and it must come out. In theory I have always said this about art–the works are already inside us, waiting to be born. Michelangelo saw the human figure trapped inside the marble, and believed his only task was to extricate it. “The end is in the beginning,” said Anaximander, Aristotle, T. S. Eliot, and a host of other celebrated thinkers.

The Messy Studio, where Dreams Take Shape

The Messy Studio, where Dreams Take Shape

The gift of this day has filled me with a spirit of good will. Granted, I chafed at the long hours spent poring over spread sheets and receipts. But still, there were those sublime hours of reading and working on the watercolor. Even while working on taxes and reading from an excellent book, I kept the watercolor propped across the room from me, under a good clean light, so I could look up at it from time to time, and make decisions on the next step. I’m glad there is no deadline for its completion. The complimentary reds and greens are delicious to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the painting will take me tomorrow when the natural light returns through those windows.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Morning with Aristotle

July 10, 2014
Aristotle Drawing/Collage

Aristotle Drawing/Collage

All men by nature desire to know.

Aristotle, Metaphysics

Vacation, for me, means not going to my everyday job, though many of my work habits may remain the same.  And so this morning, without an alarm, I was awake by 5:56, and, following a good breakfast with coffee, thought it best to give myself to the study of logic while my mind was awake and fresh.  This fall, I will teach a logic course online for the first time in my life.  Though I have taught the subject in classrooms several times, the experience of assembling a course online is totally new, and I have to think of teaching the discipline from a way never done before.  I was glad to have a few days without school, so I could focus without interruption on this new venture.

Upon completion of my first third of the semester, I felt the itch to pursue an Aristotle collage, since he is regarded as the Father of Logic.  I have always been charmed by the opening of his Metaphysics–“All men by nature desire to know.”  Hence this quick drawing/collage of the Great Philosopher.

It’s never interesting to discuss housekeeping issues, but I am pleased with myself that I used several stretch breaks last night and this morning from my logic studies to tidy some rooms in my house that have turned into junk rooms.  And I have surprised myself in that one of the rooms (my former study) is about 75% junk-free, and I can barely recognize the space–I could actually go into that room and set up another work area to pursue one of my other hobbies.  Perhaps by the time this vacation ends, I’ll have all the rooms of my dwellling debris-free.  And that, to me, would be a most satisfying accomplishment.

Oh well–back to logic!

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

 

Creating Watercolor Christmas Cards in the Man Cave

November 29, 2011

Christmas card workspace

It’s hard to find quality time to paint when school is in session.  Nevertheless, I retreated to my Man Cave (dirty garage!) immediately after school today to resume work on Christmas card #2.  Tonight, with the help of a dear friend, I plan to resume work on my “store” opening soon at cafepress.com.  So, during this brief interlude between school and technical support, I find joy in painting once again.

Once this card is finished, I’ll post a tighter image of it and discuss what I’ve discovered in the process of rendering it.  As for now, all I can say is “Hurray for Prismacolor watercolor pencils”!  They are making the task go very quickly and efficiently.   It would be wonderful if I could finish this tonight, but I have my doubts.  Tomorrow my Philosophy class begins work on Nietzsche, and I still have plenty of prep work to do on him tonight after I finish work on Cafe Press.

What I am about to write may appear to have nothing to do with my painting, but I know in my heart that it does.  Yesterday I resumed my interior dialogue with some great minds that I had abandoned months ago.  The demands of my daily schedule, and certain priorities I had established simply pushed them out.  And to them I have now happily returned.

Since the 1980’s I have been absorbed with the history of ideas, and that particular discipline (I hope) has been able to rescue me from becoming too pedantic in the courses I teach.  I must say, with regret, that the abandonment of this fruitful dialogue more recently turned my high school courses into catalog summaries of the essential elements assigned to each discipline.  Since yesterday, I have worked to find my way back to the multidisciplinary path I once knew, and have come to miss.

My reading has been primarily in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” and “The Waste Land”.    But thanks to The Teaching Company, I have had the enriching experience of listening to VHS tapes and DVDs on Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition as well as An Introduction to Greek Philosophy.  I have been filled with lectures on the Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle as well as Erasmus, Descartes and Spinoza.  Though I cannot describe how the fellowship of these thinkers has seeped into my painting, I can at least testify that they have soothed my mind and put me in a proper space for painting.  Hours pass by that feel like minutes.  I’m glad to be back once again in the company of these magnificent minds.

Thanks for reading.

Making Christmas Cards over the Holidays

November 26, 2011

Making a Christmas Card

I apologize that more than a week has passed since my last post.  Too many disruptions that were school-related and then holiday-related.  Finally I manage to get back into the studio!  The “man cave” (garage, actually) is quite chilly as winter winds are blowing across north Texas today, Saturday.  But thanks to a heavy sweater, I’m managing to find some contentment in this space, and oddly enough, I’m listening to The Teaching Company VHS and DVD lectures on Aristotle.  I’ve had a curiosity about his ethics these past months, and thought I would devote some quality time to hearing lectures on the topic.  So far, I’m finding them quite engaging.

Yesterday afternoon, I journeyed to Fort Worth’s Sundance Square to see everything set up for the Festival of Lights that took place last night.  For several years now, I’ve had good intentions to photograph the complex “Santa Stage” and do a series of Christmas watercolors on the subject.  I am in the process of setting up my own “store” on http://cafepress.com and I did not think the store would be complete without Christmas cards.  I have begun two that are 9 x 12″ in size, that I plan to digitize and reduce to 4 x 6 or 5 x 7″.  We’ll see how that one goes.  I’m getting lost in the profusion of bright primary colors in the Sundance stage and wonder at this point how I’m going to unify the composition.  But at any rate, I’m having fun chipping away at the piece.  We’ll see how it all turns out.  Hopefully I can post more progress later tonight.

Thanks for reading.  Sorry for the lengthy hiatus.