Posts Tagged ‘Emile Zola’

Always a New Beginning

August 30, 2020
1903 house in Flippin, Arkansas. 18 x 24″ framed $400

Yet for better or for worse we love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them.

Jun’ichero Tanizaki

Sunday mornings usually draw me back to the Bible to read for creative as well as living inspiration. Again this morning, I read the creation narratives in Genesis, pondering about the world as a chaotic void until God organized it through a series of spoken words. As an artist, I am more amazed at my current age than ever before at the profound dynamics that go into any kind of creative activity.

My continued reading of Emile Zola’s The Masterpiece feeds my daily creative eros. Recently, I have returned to drawing and watercolor sketching in a diary to break out of the routine of working on commission pieces (I have two more to complete before all orders are finally filled). What I read this morning certainly set off a string of musings. The words come from an older, seasoned artist in his studio:

“It may suprise you,” he said, for he had been successful from an early age and his place in French painting was now firmly established, “but there are days when I question my ability to draw a simple thing like a nose. . . . Every picture I paint, I’m as excited as the rawest novice; my heart thumps like mad, my mouth goes dry out of sheer emotion. “

Some years back, when my watercolors began selling more successfully and I took blogging and marketing more seriously, I developed this fear of “whipping out Tripps to feed the market.” Not only did I worry about being locked into a particular style to keep up with demand; I still wondered exactly what my “style” was. I have posted a painting above from my earlier years when I focused on aged, decaying subjects. I still work on those kinds of images, but not exclusively. Rather, I have tried to broaden my subject matter to pick up some themes I’ve always wished to pursue but never took the time to do so (Hence, my recent trout fly patterns).

I believe all of us hope to live out our lives free of regrets. However, recently, I do look back on my college years with regret–I was an art major, but relied on my talent and listened very little to what my instructors tried to teach me. I had excellent instructors, and wish to this day I had been more mature and open to what they had to offer. Now at my present age, I am attempting to learn things I should have learned long ago as I experiment daily in the studio, and truly try to be “open” to experimenting. As the days proceed, I will most likely post the drawings and watercolor sketches I’m attempting, along with the commissioned work in progress.

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.

The Perpetual Turn of the Crank

August 16, 2020
Sunday Morning Meditations

In precipio creavit Deus caelum et terram . . .

Genesis 1:1 Latin Vulgate

Genesis 1:1 Septuagint

Sunday mornings for me usually mean translating from the biblical texts. Before going into the studio to paint, I decided to do some work on the Genesis creation story, always inspiring to me. On this day I chose to work from the Latin Vulgate alongside the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The opening verses describe how God looked upon a chaotic mass and then spoke a world into order, by degrees. I always think of this when I approach a white rectangle of paper and make my first marks upon it, whether it be strokes from a pencil or a brush. As Robert Motherwell put it, each mark calls out for another, and drawing involves the organization of space. After about an hour of reading, I turned my attention to completing another commission that has been before me for several weeks now.

Just a few more adjustments to complete this work

I always seem to enjoy painting more after spending some time reading early in the morning. Paul Cezanne’s habit was to rise at 4:00 a.m. and read for two hours before painting. I choose not to set an alarm, so my rising from bed usually occurs somewhere between 7 and 8:00. Coffee is made first, then leisure time reading over coffee and recording ideas in the journal. In these simple pleasures I find the greatest joy and satisfaction, the beginnings to a potentially perfect day.

While painting this morning, a passage read recently from Zola’s Masterpiece stayed planted in my mind:

Paris? What were the others doing in Paris? Oh, nothing particularly new, really. Still, they were putting up a pretty good fight to see who would get to the top of the tree first. And, as might be expected, folks who stayed away from Paris were making a sad mistake; Paris was a good place to be in if you didn’t want to be forgotten altogether. But surely talent would out, wherever it was, and didn’t success depend to a great extent on strength of will? Oh, there was no doubt about it that the ideal was to live in the country and pile up masterpieces and then go back to Paris and swamp it with them!

What I am about to write is an example of the kind of stuff I scribble daily in my journals, what Harold Bloom would refer to as “overhearing myself.” Warning to the reader: you might be finished with this blog, and if so, thanks for reading!

Zola was referring to the cadre of artists we now call the French Impressionists as they clustered in Paris, the epicenter of the art world, and tried to make their mark. This reminds me of days long ago, through high school, college, and then later in my early stages of the “emerging artist.” There was that perpetual scramble for recognition–awards in competitions, interviews for newspapers and magazines, public exhibitions in art galleries that continually stirred us all up with ideas and aspirations of fame.

Some years ago, I happily settled down. I no longer chafe at the notion of art being a solitary enterprise. I have always enjoyed solitude, and now I find more satisfaction than ever before with just the mere act of creating, of turning the crank, rather than reaping some reward in the form of public recognition. I still enjoy the company of fellow artists and really miss them now with all this social distancing. But I’ll see them again, soon I hope. In the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the quiet time in the studio and leisure reading of art history, literature, philosophy or whatever sparks my interest.

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.

The completed work

Fits and Starts

August 10, 2020
Working at my Study Desk

Throughout the entire summer all he did was work in fits and starts, sketching-in part of a picture, leaving it on the slightest pretext, without any attempt at perseverence. His feverish passion for work which once used to get him out of his bed at dawn to wrestle with his rebellious painting, seemed to have departed and given way to indifference and idleness.

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

The timing of this morning’s leisure reading was extraordinary. Closing my book, I went to the table in my studio and immediately began scribbling out new stories for my book. I will soon introduce a third member to add to the Hank and Randy cycles; several short stories have been written about him already. I’m now looking for a way to bring him into their orbit. As I wrote, however, several other ideas and projects hatched in my mind and it was all I could do to sketch them out quickly in my journal. Then I received this text from my friend Dian Darr:

My mind is like my internet browser. I have 19 tabs open, 5 are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.

That perfectly described my morning, that along with the text of the artist in Zola’s Masterpiece. As I worked on my stories this morning, I had jazz playing from a Youtube channel on my laptop. And then, when I approached one of the commissions I’ve been working on, I turned on audiobooks to Comanche Empire and began listening to the narration.

Despite the spastic description of my morning activity, the day has been shaping up magnificently. I only pause from my commission work to post this quick note on the blog. I’ll close with pictures from my new studio as well as the two commissions I have in progress:

My entire Saturday was spent in Palestine at The Gallery at Redlands. It was a remarkable day and I so enjoyed renewing many friendships. But honestly, the day was so fast-paced, from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. when I left to return home, that I never opened a book, never wrote in my journal, and of course didn’t even blog. But here are some pictures of the newly reconfigured gallery collection:

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.

Flitting from Painting to Painting

July 11, 2020
In progress watercolor of an abandoned caboose

Maybe I really shall finish it this time, just to show myself I’m not completely hopeless!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

The quote above is the self-deprecating remark of a painter to his writer friend as they looked at one of his canvases in progress. Popular opinion holds that it is Cezanne speaking to his friend Zola. After years of reading about this novel, I am finally reading the work itself and finding it very engaging. I’ve always been interested in the creative synergy between Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola, from their childhood till the rupture of their friendship right after this novel came out. However, despite decades of reading about Cezanne’s work and gazing at it in museums, I have never until now read a word from Zola.

The quote above got my attention this morning because of my own habit of leaving many, many works incomplete. Last month while moving my studio to another room, I finally gathered all my scattered “in progress” watercolors and stacked them in two drawers of a lateral file cabinet. I didn’t count them, but I estimate there are over fifty. When I saw the quantity for the first time all in one place, I recall a jibe I heard once from an acquaintance who was observing my work in the studio: “Dave, do you ever finish anything?”

Maybe I have an Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to painting. I doubt it though, seeing that I do indeed finish many of my pieces, and do a pretty decent job of pulling one from the stacks that is several years old, and finishing it with renewed interest. At any rate, I started two watercolors on the same day recently, and now decided to move to painting #2 while the fly fisherman remains unfinished in the midst of the stream.

This old wooden caboose is on the property of E & J Smokehouse and Grill at Spirit Ranch in Lubbock. We dined there a few evenings ago while it was cool outside, and afterward strolled the property. The setting sun cast an amazing light on this old car and I’m glad I climbed the hill for a closer look.

The reason I shifted away from the Colorado landscape to this painting is because this morning I was seized with the interest to pursue detailed, painstaking work in watercolor. This is something I definitely have to be in the mood to do. I love the medium of watercolor because it allows me to be splashy and spontaneous as a painter, and at the same time allows me to focus and work more as a serious draftsman. I especially enjoy doing both tasks within the same painting. And so, as I shift between the architectural details on the caboose and the splashy clouds and foliage enveloping the composition, I enjoy feeding both sides of the artistic enterprise.

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.