Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Making Headway on the Palestine Blues Watercolor

October 22, 2022

The ghost of Lightnin’ Hopkins moving through Palestine

People have learned how to strum a guitar, but they don’t have the soul. They don’t feel it from the heart. It hurts me. I’m killin’ myself to tell them how it is.

Lightnin’ Hopkins

The Hot Pepper Festival has drawn to a close. Vendors are packing up their tents and merchandise. The streets are clearing. And I’m getting weary of painting, having bent over the drafting table and picked at this watercolor for the most part of nine hours. I’m happy with the amount of work that got accomplished today, and believe I’ll now spend the rest of the evening reading. The Gallery at Redlands will stay open another three hours.

Dear friends of mine who looked at the painting in progress this afternoon noticed the transparency of my blues man walking along the tracks. I inserted him after I had drafted the store behind him, and the lines of masonry are still visible through his clothing. Lisa liked the idea of the ghost sign being in the same frame as the ghost blues man. I had not thought of that! Lightnin’ Hopkins played in a juke joint in Crockett, Texas, thirty miles down the highway from here. A life-size bronze statue has been installed in the park across the street from the Camp Street Care & Store that used to be the joint. So I’m naming this solitary traveling musician Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Thanks for reading.

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Hot Pepper Festival in Palestine Today

October 22, 2022
Resuming a Recent Watercolor

I have found it difficult to stop and blog today. My day began at 7:00, and as I walked the streets of Palestine, I felt that I was making my way through a Medieval village. Vendors were everywhere, setting up booths for the day. The annual Hot Pepper Festival is in full swing. The parade has already passed through, and people are everywhere. I’m enjoying the Gallery traffic. Talking to patrons and visitors is always enjoyable, especially if I’m up to my elbows in a watercolor

While passing through the booths during my morning walk, I enjoyed the scattered chatterings I overheard, reminding me of my days of setting up for an outdoor art festival. A good memory. In fact, I experienced this three weeks ago in Edom, Texas. I used to do about ten of these a year. Now I’ve cut back to two or three. I’m glad to be settled into the gallery, and plan to work on watercolors till we close tonight at 9:00

A close up of the details I’m tending on the Palestine watercolor

While working on a large piece, I enjoy moving all over the composition, sometimes detailing, sometimes laying down large washes of color, sometimes drawing and adjusting something that doesn’t seem quite right. Currently I’m working on small perimeter leaves and branches separating the bulk of the tree crowns from the sky. I call these little touches “salt and peppering” as I feel I am seasoning the work instead of basting or cooking.

I need to get back to painting. Thanks for reading.

Help from Joan Didion

August 30, 2022
Sketching in the Studio

See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—in that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there  . . .

Joan Didion

Joan Didion pulled me out of the abyss this morning. I cannot put my finger on it; I slept late, woke up feeling drained, and found myself tidying the studio and doing all kinds of busy work instead of sitting down and making myself draw in the sketchbook. Once I did the morning drawing (a new discipline I’m trying to instill in myself), I settled in to read, but nothing clicked. One of those mornings when I wished for an oracle and heaven was silent. Then I remembered: I have this deep, deep file of quotes I’ve lifted over the past twenty years or so. The first file was Joan Didion, and the above statement lifted me to higher ground.

We all have our habits. Decades ago, when I was in the ministry, I began every morning searching my Bible for some Word, some organizing, cohesive force to direct my life. When I left the ministry and entered the teaching field, the habit remained, only this time I searched not only the Bible, but books in my study, magazines, newspapers, file folders of gems I’d copied from my past–anything that might start a fire of creative desire in my imagination.

Now retired, the habit remains. For some reason this morning, I pursued chores, tasks, busy work, and postponed the morning coffee for nearly two hours. But now here I am, coffee’d up, breakfasted, read up, scribbled up in the journal, and ready to go to the drafting table to the big watercolor and figure out what to do next with it.

Quick Sketch of a Blues Man

Thanks, Joan. And thanks to the rest of you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Sketches & Thoughts

August 29, 2022
Morning Sketch of Son House over Coffee

He was by far the most intense. If blues was an ocean distilled to a lake, to a pond, to a pool, to a tub, to a glass and ultimately to a drop, the essence, the very concentrate, this is Son House.

Dick Waterman

I started this day off better. Having resolved to shift priority #3 to #1, I began my morning over coffee by sketching in my sketchbook. Opening Billy Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart and Soul, I found this photograph of Son House and an accompanying article about Dick Waterman, who re-discovered Son House in his later years, living in a New York apartment, and in failing health. Waterman put Son House back into the blue’s limelight and he was able to enjoy success till his death. Waterman’s glowing tribute of Son House and how he represented the essence of blues music is a sublime piece of writing.

I’m happy now to return to sketching, and intend to be more disciplined and consistent with it. Now, it’s time for me to pick up my other two priorities and see if I can continue this excellent day.

Thanks for reading.

Chilling in Missouri

May 26, 2022
Better Times

When are you gonna come down?
When are you going to land?

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

With all the Midwest rainfall and falling temperatures I cannot complain about a 60-degree morning, reading outside, and eventually needing to don a long-sleeve denim shirt because the winds are too cold. After a couple of days, I’m glad I can finally feel rested from my long drive and do some creative eros. Responding to Elton John, I believe I am ready to come down, ready to land.

Sketching Bison
Working on some Blues Themes

While on vacation, I am hoping to continue exploring Western themes including bison and longhorns. I am also wanting to sketch and watercolor selected Blues themes.

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.

Dawn Over Palestine

May 20, 2022
Looking out the kitchen window from our second-floor The Redlands Hotel suite.

Gazing through the fire escape at the graying of the Dawn across sleeping Palestine, Odysseus leans forward in anticipation of setting sail for Ithaca over the broad back of the U.S. highway.

entry from this morning’s journal over coffee

Friday morning finds us in a more restful state after several days of frenetic deadlines and appointments. My grades have been turned in to the registrar; I am officially out of the classroom, for good this time. I informed the dean in February that I was finished after this term. The reality of my new chapter is still not fully realized, but it will happen.

My dear friend Bob Stevens gave me a book to read after our second visit and discussion earlier this week. Both of us seminary graduates, we still have an interest in many of the issues that bubbled up in our earlier days and still hold our attention. The Harvey Cox book is proving a most engaging read, and several of its passages read recently, accompanied by things brought up by Bob in conversation, have spurred me back to writing my book (I really, really wish to finish and self-publish it in 2022).

If you haven’t read earlier chapters from my draft, the book, titled Turvey’s Corner 63050, is about two fellows coming of age by leaving their Midwestern town in their earlier twenties to explore the world and find themselves. I’ve written twenty-three stories to date, and this morning decided to draft my twenty-fourth. This one is still sketchy but it was inspired by the Harvey Cox book . . .

The Weary Blues

Preacher at the Peppermill

Randy was numb with fatigue. Saturday night at The Peppermill Lounge proved to be a grinder. Setting up at 7:00. Soundcheck. 9:00 start. Now it was the second set break, nearing midnight. The bar was nearly empty, only eight patrons still hanging on, all of them with their backs to the stage, no one apparently listening any longer.

Randy sat at his table with stale coffee steaming in the ivory mug. Before him the typed manuscript he had completed at 5:00 this afternoon. With a dull pencil, he continued to scratch out words and phrases and scrawl between the double-space lines fragments of thoughts. Beginnings of thoughts, ends of thoughts. Anything that would say it better, quicker and cleaner.

Jack, the lead guitarist, pulled up a stool alongside. “Whatcha workin’ on?”

“Sermon for the morning.”

“You’re still a preacher?”

“Not really. I still speak twice a month from a Unitarian pulpit. I’m just going over my talk for the morning.”

Jack solemnly extended his hand for a warm, firm handshake.

“What was that?”

“This is where you’re supposed to be.”

“What do you mean?”

Jack looked long and quietly across the space of empty tables. After a long drag from his hand-rolled cigarette crammed with Bugle Boy tobacco, he exhaled wearily. Then his steely eyes sharpened into focus as he turned and looked intently into Randy’s face.

“You’ll never find a preacher in these places. And this is where all the real people are with real problems who need real help. They won’t go to church. And the church will certainly not come to them. But you’re here, because you’re a real preacher. And you’ll talk about real things. And give real help.”

___________________________________

It’s only a beginning, but it feels good to be writing again.

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.

Art as a Healing Balm

March 4, 2017

home

“Art still has truth, take refuge there!

Matthew Arnold, “Memorial Verses April 1850”

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking before an adult Sunday School group at a local church. Most of this day was given to preparing my remarks, taking Matthew Arnold’s statement as my point of departure. A number of things have happened around me that have saddened a large number of people whom I love, and the tragedies have been mine as well. We lack satisfying answers when grief invades our lives, and sometimes it is all I can do to pick up the brush and go through that portal into the sanctuary of art, and give healing a chance. Thanks to time spent watercoloring, and resuming my reading of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, I have managed to find some quality in this day.

The day has been cold and rainy, and I felt it necessary to keep a fire burning in the fireplace. In the comfort of that warmth, and ignoring the grayness outside as much as possible, I returned to this watercolor and have nearly finished it. The setting is the farmhouse where my grandparents lived in southeast Missouri. The old building is barely standing today, and no longer has the front porch where I have positioned myself with a guitar I purchased from my late uncle’s estate. Of course, being twelve hours away from this location, I had to settle for a selfie taken in my backyard. Only in my memories can I place myself on the porch of that ramshackle house where I used to spend the summers of my childhood.

I’m pleased that this painting has turned out good enough to frame and put into my March 24th show. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, I’ll complete it tomorrow and deliver it to the frame shop on Monday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to cope.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Deep Blues

February 6, 2015

The Late Bluesman Zeb Cash-Lane, Playing at Fort Worth's Peppermill Lounge

The Late Bluesman Zeb Cash-Lane, Playing at Fort Worth’s Peppermill Lounge

My Privilege to Share the Stage Alongside Zeb

My Privilege to Share the Stage Alongside Zeb, Playing Blues

The Illinois Central cuts through the heart of the South Side, where most Chicago blacks lived in 1943 and most still do. The passenger’s first look at the city consists of mile after mile of weatherbeaten two-and three-story frame and brick buildings with dilapidated back porches that reach right to the edge of the tracks. They march sullenly past the train’s windows for what seems like an hour, and then the rhythmic clickclack of the pistons slows down and the engine pulls into Central Station.

Robert Palmer, Deep  Blues

It is now Christmas Eve, and what am I doing? I’m seated in a darkened Amtrak lounge car, hurtling through the black night, watching the occasional small southern town sprint past my window with its red flashing crossing guards, and small frame homes. And I am listening to Muddy Waters on my Discman. I am listening to Muddy Waters playing Country Blues on a speeding train across Arkansas past midnight.

David Tripp, Journal, December 24, 2004, 12:22 a.m.

I look up from my work as small-town America rolls by beneath my Amtrak window.  Sleeping America, sprawled beneath a bloody three-quarter moon. The flashing red crossing lights. The white facades of sad buildings. Hope, Arkansas at 12:48 a.m.

David Tripp, Journal, May 27, 2005, 12:48 a.m.

Last night, just before bedtime, I opened Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues and began to read. I purchased this book over ten years ago, but never opened it, to my shame. When I was studying Blues more closely back then, I read over a dozen biographies and histories covering the American Blues music phenomenon. I even played in some bands, though I always considered myself shaky and uptight with my guitar attempts. I love this musical genre, and reading the text I posted above sent me scurrying to my shelves of journals to retrieve some things I had jotted from that earlier era of my own life. How well I remember those sad nights on Amtrak, traveling home to St. Louis to visit my family for Christmas. As the train left Fort Worth and rolled through the grimy unsightly neighborhoods and decaying business districts of Arlington, Grand Prairie, Dallas, Marshall, Longview, Texarkanna, Arkadelphia, Hope, Little Rock, etc., I would look out my windows at the small backyards, sagging porches, chained pit bulls, junked vehicles, washing machines and Christmas lights in these sad little neighborhoods. And I would listen to Blues music on my headphones–Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House–and experience feelings too deep to describe. As Robert Palmer reminds us, the history of the Blues is a “story of a small and deprived group of people who created, against tremendous odds, something that has enriched us all.”

For awhile, I played in a band with Zeb Cash-Lane, about two years before he passed away. We took our act on weekends to the Peppermill Lounge in east Fort Worth, playing before less than a dozen working-class men bellied up to the bar who showed no indication of listening to us. That took the pressure off, as we experimented with our Blues genre and took it to levels we never thought possible. I still hear Zeb’s Stratocaster crying out into the night as he pushed out the most amazing lead improvs that I never heard in our studio rehearsals. The man was possessed with a magnificent genius for electric blues guitar, and I miss him as I write this tonight. Following is something I wrote in my journal on October 13, 2006, the morning after I met Zeb Cash-Lane:

Last night, I had a life-altering encounter at a recording studio in east Arlington. I met for the first time Zeb Cash-Lane, an aged blues musician, specializing in harp and searing electric guitar (Fender Jazzmaster played through a Fender tube amp).  It was a night to remember always and I now attempt to record the visions . . .

7:00 p.m. Thursday found me pushing my Jeep westward on Abram, with temperatures dropping, a chilly October evening and a sun sinking large, flooding the western sky with color. Looming silhouettes of tire shops and tattoo parlors paraded down the corridors of my peripheral glances.  Finally, the cinder block building came into sight. Jim Farmer waited outside on the parking lot with a slender, rangy man sporting a Rasputin-like full white beard, faded jeans, suspenders and a gray-blue “Charley Guitar Shop” T-shirt. I was introduced and shook hands with Zeb Cash-Lane.

Inside the dim studio room that doubled as Zeb’s dorm room, we heard the searing electric blues that Zeb ripped. It was an authentic Blues environ: whiskey bottles, ashtrays, Zeb rolling his own cigarettes, scattered amps, guitars, a cello and even an upright piano. The room had the clutter of a maintenance shed or electrician’s shop, but it was a music room. A Blues room, a three-dimensional photo gallery of where Zeb was and where Zeb had been. Jim Farmer played his new electric bass, Zeb played his Fender Jazzmaster and I played my Martin D-35. The Blues seared, screamed and moaned late into that cold October night. Inside, the guitars cried while outside, the winds answered with a chorus of mournful, yet affirming howls. Stormy Monday set the tone for the Blues night in the studio.

After hours of playing, we sat outside on the concrete steps, weary but full of hope about our musical collaboration, and shared stories over cold beers. I drove home, late in the night, numbed by the experience.

My Watercolor of Zeb Cash-Lane

My Watercolor of Zeb Cash-Lane

Though most of the blues musicians with whom I have played in the past are either deceased or no longer in my social circle, I still feel a kinship with anyone who has played a Blues riff on a guitar. I’m grateful for what the Delta and Chicago bluesmen left us, what Zeb handed down to me, and so sorry for the way these musicians suffered to lay such a gift at our feet.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

A Little Slide Guitar

February 3, 2015

Practicing Slide Guitar

Practicing Slide Guitar

We set up a lot of academies for ourselves, a lot of rules; the process of developing over time, loosening up and becoming free, is really the hardest thing to do.

Gregory Amenoff, New York artist

This will be short, as I had another commitment tonight that was school-related. On top of that I’ve had to spend more prep time for tomorrow’s classes, and now the hour is late.  Thanks to all of you who responded to my last post–it is you that make me want to write more and write better.  I’ll work on that.

A parallel I’m experiencing between my watercolor and my guitar playing the past few weeks is this notion of trying to break out of all the disciplinary procedures I’ve learned throughout the years, concentrating on all the rules and not on style (whatever “style” is!).  With watercolor lately, I’ve tried to break a few rules and follow some notions that I “felt” rather than learned and practiced throughout the years.  And now, after picking up the guitar following a lengthy hiatus, I’m doing more of the same.

As I wrote earlier, I’ve returned to a serious look at blues music, and for the past 72 hours have stolen some moments out of each day and evening to slip a brass slide on my finger and practice with open tunings (in G, D, and E).  The more I work the slide, the looser I feel my playing is, and I’m beginning to hear some things I like (playing slide guitar used to guarantee that I could empty a roomful of people within seconds).  The more I read of how Robert Johnson pushed the boundaries of music with his slide techniques, the more excited I’m becoming with these possibilities.  When I read this interview with New York artist Gregory Amenoff this morning, I was pleased to hear someone articulate what I’ve been feeling of late, so I posted his words to open tonight’s blog.  As the days unfold ahead, I hope I’ll be able to give some quality time to exploring these freedom boundaries.

Thanks for reading.

David

Swimming in Blues Music and Other Streams

February 2, 2015

An old watercolor of myself playing guitar outside the Silver Dollar Tavern

An old watercolor of myself playing guitar outside the Silver Dollar Tavern

Robert Johnson became the personification of the existential blues singer, unencumbered by corporeality or history, a fiercely incandescent spirit who had escaped the bonds of tradition by the sheer thrust of genius. . . . Like Shakespeare, though, the man remains the mystery. . . . From what remote and isolated well of inspiration did the music and poetry of Robert Johnson emerge? . . . It was a world in which Robert Johnson was suddenly elevated to significance by an act of creative will, by a synthesis of all he knew, of all he ever was to be.

Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson

Good evening, and I apologize for my disappearing act.  I’m afraid I’m not offering much substance tonight, but wanted to re-enter the blogosphere and say to anyone who cares that I’m fine, but drowning in deadlines.  The past couple of weeks have been too busy for my own good, but I like what has happened.  I have returned to my abandoned Martin acoustic guitar, performed in a talent show, reconnected with a Renaissance man who is the best guitar teacher I know, played in a roomful of extraordinary guitarists who make my head swim with wonder and new ideas, presented a history of the blues to a living room salon gathering of kindred spirits, attended a Catholic mass that featured a polyphonic Renaissance repertoire of Latin music, connected with a large classroom full of philosophy students who are overflowing with fresh ideas (reading their journals recently made me shudder in wonder), and found an extraordinary mind in Goethe as I read his Faust in German and English.  What have I left out?  Oh yes, my new Logic class online at Texas Wesleyan University is also giving me a new lease on life, as are my AVID and Art History students at Martin High School.  And oh yes–I just emceed a Super Quiz for the regional Academic Decathlon meet last weekend, always an interesting pageant.

I have spent a large amount of time relearning blues history and playing slide guitar on my acoustic, something I had gotten away from in previous years.  My studies of Delta blues musicians has been an engaging one, especially connecting the Robert Johnson legacy with that line from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” about being a part of all that I have met.  I’m always intrigued with the multiple strands that make up individual creative personalities.  The lines of influence are never linear the way public education wishes we would teach facts.  Human experience is so fascinating and twisted in the best possible sense.  As I read the lives of Robert Johnson, Goethe, and more recently T. S. Eliot, I am always reminded that these men did not pursue a straight path.  No one does.  The tributaries that flow into our psychic mainstream are twisted and meandering, and so are our interests.  The more I work to untangle those tributaries leading toward the delta and finally the ocean, the more fascinated I am with the complexities and possibilities existent in our personal lives.

On a side note–I also posted my sentiments on Facebook yesterday, that I blacked out the Super Bowl for the first time in my personal history–I abhor a systemic cheating team calling themselves Patriots and am insulted as a teacher when I listen to the idiocy of one Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks during media week, wondering how colleges grant degrees to indivduals who become millionaire “professional” athletes, and then parade their ignorance and arrogance, somewhow evoking adulation from citizens and reporters who don’t seem to know any better.  All this on top of a year of the NFL not knowing how to respond to domestic abuse and child abuse made me reach a decision that I am terminating my Sunday Ticket subscription to DirecTV, refusing to send one more nickel to the NFL.  I abhor their bankruptcy of values alongside their financial show of pageantry.  I take my educational profession seriously and don’t want to associate or support public abuse, arrogance or ignorance.  I feel sorry for the billionaires who find value in this, and even more for citizens who think they need it.

To sum up–I am alive, well, overworked, but really wanting to climb back into the blogosphere.  I really want to return to making art, but there are still deadlines crushing me with high school and college responsibilities.  My mind is fertile, I’m loving blues music, the study of art history, philosophy and literature, and hope that very soon I’ll have good art images to show as well as cogent ideas worth publishing.

Thanks for reading.  I really miss writing and publishing for kindred spirits out there.

David