Posts Tagged ‘Faust’

Whittling and Weaving

January 6, 2020

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Goethe’s works, letters and diaries fill 143 volumes . . . of course by no means everything he wrote is first-rate, but – or perhaps it is because – he worked constantly and never sought the easy way out, least of all by following a formula.

Walter Kaufmann, Introduction to Goethe’s Faust

I cannot express the depths of my admiration for the writings of Goethe, and only wish I would have begun earlier in life to study his works. While working on this recent watercolor, I have been re-reading Faust during the drying periods. And as I read of Goethe’s prolific output, I am reminded of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the way his study was strewn with unfinished manuscripts and projects. After all these years, I have hundreds of volumes of handwritten journals on the shelf, years of blog posts in the cloud and hundreds of drawings and watercolor attempts stacked in the studio and stored in steamer trunks and suitcases. Knowing that Goethe continually edited his old works, I consider the possibilities of revisiting and revising my own.

As I continue fiddling with this watercolor, the extensive network of tree limbs and layers of woven grasses have drawn my focus to matters of design not often visited, and I am really enjoying this journey while at the same time pausing to read and ponder the most engaging literature.

When I focus all my attention on a patch of grasses within just a couple of square inches, I feel I am using a penknife to whittle on a log. I am easily swallowed up in such a tiny part of our world. And my mind visits so many unrelated ideas while I work at leisure. I cannot describe the well-being I experience when I am in my element.

I suppose the reason I feel so good about all this is because I am not following a formula, I am not bored by repetition, I am not on an assembly line cranking out product. I feel like a creator, free to experiment, not needing permission to spend time doing this. The lovely gift of retirement includes rising before daylight on a Monday morning, not having to go to work for someone else, but making coffee and entering the studio to play another day.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI 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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A Thinker’s Well-Being

January 5, 2020

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Continued Work on the Dickens, Texas Landscape

. . . they make life harder for themselves than they should. Oh, that at long last you had the courage for once to yield yourselves to your impressions, to let yourselves be delighted, let yourselves be moved, let yourselves be elevated, yes, to let yourselves be taught and inspired and encouraged for something great . . . 

Goethe, conversation with his young secretary Eckermann, May 6, 1827

I didn’t post yesterday, choosing instead to make another sojourn out to Dickens, Texas to enjoy the fabulous barbecue there and then to stroll about the landscape in a nearby roadside park that offered access to a fascinating gorge and waterfall complete with walking trails. While on site, gazing at the fields of tall dead grasses, I recognized immediately that my yellows are too warm and intense than what I actually see during these sunny winter Texas days. Once I got back home, I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not I should neutralize my warm yellows or just let them continue as they are, and try to get the colors right on a future attempt at this landscape. Already I have poured quite a bit of work into this one, and wonder if I dare make such a profound change in its overall look.

Waking this Sunday morning, I chose to spend some quiet time reading and reflecting before resuming the painting. For a few days I have enjoyed the crackling intensity and restlessness of Faust. This time I decided I wanted to read from a quieter spirit. Having worked on the text of Plotinus Enniad I, I had focused all my previous efforts on his thoughts in Book 6 “On Beauty.” This morning I spent about an hour on Book 4 “On Well-Being.” Good choice. The word translated “well-being” is ευδαιμóνια (eudaimonia).

I discovered in this morning’s study that Plotinus, after examining the works of Aristotle and Stoic writers, concluded that “well-being” can be achieved by what we call today a “Life of the Mind.” Plotinus determined that the highest good results from a “life of the Intellect, independent of all outward circumstances and material and emotional satisfactions of our lower nature” (introductory statement from the editor Jeffrey Henderson). As I worked through the Plotinus text and read comments from the editor, I was surprised to find a parallel between Plotinus’s words and those from the Parable of the Sower we read from the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament.

Plotinus argued that the accumulation of material comfort can easily distract one who has the capacity of a life of the mind from actually experiencing this richness. When Jesus mentioned the four types of soils, he referred to the one overrun by thorns and thistles. He said this was indicative of those who wished to seek higher values, but the cares and “distractions” of this age sprung up and choked out the growth of the newly planted crop, thus rendering it unfruitful. I smiled at this for a number of reasons, one of which I’ll mention and then leave alone:

I purchased a book a few days ago, explaining how to incorprate Instagram into one’s business. As readers are aware, I launched a new website recently, and since that day have been studying ways to use social media to raise my profile in the art world. As one who loves to read daily, I have found myself recently struggling to balance this study of business and marketing with my longtime love of classical learning. Today I returned to classical learning, and feel much richer for it. In fact, I am more motivated to paint now than I have been while reading and exploring Instagram. Who would have guessed.

There, I said it. Now I’m ready to return to the painting. Thanks for reading, and yes, please take a look at my website if you haven’t:   www.davidtrippart.com

Shultz on websiteI 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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Morning Coffee with Dave and the Journal

January 10, 2019

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Science is not enough, nor art;

In this work patience plays a part.

A quiet spirit plods and plods at length;

Nothing but time can give the brew its strength.

Goethe, Faust

Writing my memoir has forced me to spend more time thinking over my past, and currently I am working on the second installment from the Julia Cameron assignment (ages 6-10). That period, of course, comprises my sense of lostness during elementary school. Throughout those years, I never felt that I was on track as far as what was expected from good students. I was a daydreamer, and seemed to absorb very little from classroom instruction. I certainly did not feel that I was one of the “smart ones” and my grades certainly were nothing to admire.

Once I reached the university, I realized I was going to have to grow up and accept responsibility if I was to remain in school. I worked hard. Damned hard. And I felt that I was twelve years behind my colleagues. And forty years behind my professors. When I talked to trusted advisors about my deficiencies and my desire to acquire knowledge, they would smile smugly and simply say “It will come. Be patient.” It did.

Fifteen years later, in my first year of teaching high school, I read for the first time the poetry of Walt Whitman. These stanzas from “Song of the Open Road” went right to the core of things for me:

Here is the test of wisdom.

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, 

Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not

      having it,

.    .    .

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,

They may prove well in lecture rooms, yet not prove at all under

           the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing

           currents.

I knew, as a rookie teacher, that I was no longer lacking in knowledge and wisdom when it came to instructing the youth. But what I had never realized before that day reading Whitman was this:  There is no royal road to wisdom.  We live in an age that demands shortcuts, that wants to know the bottom line now, right now. And the reality of life is that there are things, including wisdom, that require time, much time.

When I was a student in public school, the craze was speed-reading. Courses were offered in speed reading. I always thought that I was a slow reader. One day I realized that yes, I am a slow, deliberate reader. I am a plodder, not a quick thinker. Quality ideas, for me, require time.

This has been a good morning for me at the desk. Last night I took from my shelf a pair of journals from the year 2017, and perused them out of curiosity. I read with delight the pages of notes I recorded from my first reading of Goethe’s Faust. I close this blog with yet another of his sterling quotes that paints the picture of my experience when moments in the study are at their height:

When in our narrow den

The friendly lamp glows on the shelf,

Then light pervades our breast again

And fills the heart that knows itself.

Reason again begins \to speak,

Hope blooms again with ancient force,

One longs for life and one would seek

Its rivers and, alas, its source.

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.

A Satisfying Return to the Studio Tonight

February 6, 2017

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Die Zeit ist kurz, die Kunst ist lang. (Time is too brief, though art’s forever.)

Goethe, Faust

The soft darkness and stillness of this night welcomed me back to my abandoned studio. There have been too many lengthy lapses in creative activity, thanks to school-related tasks that have driven me far from my element, and I chafe at the realization that the “system”, while crowing about “what’s best for the students” never considers the value of an instructor’s personal enrichment. To me, the development and enrichment of the instructor is by far the best gift to offer students.  Way back in 1995, The National Endowment for the Humanities granted twenty-five of us the last of the Teacher-Scholar Awards (Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” killed the program). The award was a one-year funded sabbatical leave of absence, grounded in the philosophy that teachers are better for their students when they are granted time off for educational advancement, scholarly study or personal enrichment. In twenty-eight years, I am glad that I had that one year to re-tool and re-think what I was trying to do in the classroom. I am aware that many are quick to retort that teachers have summer vacations, but that didn’t begin happening to me until two years ago–I always taught both semesters of summer school, hence no summers off from the classroom. I have been a year-round teacher until recently.

But that’s not why I’m pausing to write this night!  I was fortunate to finish tomorrow’s classroom preparations with enough of an evening before me to re-enter my studio and resume work on two abandoned watercolors. I believe I have finished the still life of the doorknob and Indian corn.  I only needed about an hour to stitch up some details on that large painting that had annoyed me. As for the smaller one of myself in the chair, I’m getting closer to finishing it out as well.  I’m still working on me, as well as the objects surrounding me, and feel that I need one or two more sessions in the studio before I can call this one complete. I am particularly fond of working on the small composition because it was born in the cozy quiet of the store I so love to inhabit when I can get out of the city for a weekend. Every time I peer into this picture, I feel myself back in the store, back in the quiet, back in the cozy embrace of a good life.

I still have not completed my reading of Faust, because I continue to pause, underline, highlight, scribble in my journal, and muse over the power of his words. When I read this line that time is brief and art is forever, my soul feels soothed. Art for me is a sanctuary. One of the portals outside the Saint Louis Art Museum reads: ART STILL HAS TRVTH. TAKE REFVGE THERE. That quote from Matthew Arnold has nourished me throughout the years. My heart vibrates when I think of the kindred spirits I know personally who enrich themselves with creative endeavors–writing, making art, playing a musical instrument, or just reading for pure pleasure and enrichment. When we are allowed quiet evenings to engage in these pursuits, we are wealthy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Most of the Time, Alone is Good

January 19, 2017

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Now there are clouds above—

The moon conceals her light—

The lamp dies down.

It steams. Red light rays dash

About my head—a chill

Blows from the vaulting dome

And seizes me.

I feel you near me, spirit I implored.

Reveal yourself!

Oh, how my heart is gored

By never felt urges,

And my whole body surges—

My heart is yours; yours, too, am I.

You must. You must. Though I should have to die.

 

Goethe, Faust

With a comforting fire in the fireplace, and my homework completed early this cold night, I am finding solace in a new watercolor that is taking me far outside my comfort zone. I have never painted myself in watercolor or oil. Ever. (Disclaimer: OK, my friends point out my fly fishing paintings of myself.  However, those are 3-inch tall figures in hats with the face turned away–hardly portraits, more like toy action figures). But the selfie I took with my phone a couple of months ago in one of my favorite spaces far from home kept drawing me to attempt this. So here goes. (And thank you, Wade and Gail, for letting me know such sublimity in that “sacred space”!).

My reading over this past week has grazed from several pastures: Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Goethe’s Faust and Heidegger’s Being and Time. I don’t know why I did this, but all day long this song has been stuck in my head, R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” On impulse awhile ago, I pulled up the YouTube video and watched it, and the music and visual really knocked me down. I’m not calling these feelings despair or depression. But something heavy weighs on me tonight, and I just want to find a way to get it out.

Today in philosophy we wrapped up a three-day unit on the Pre-Socratics. An early fragment from Anaximander states that anything that comes into being by necessity will pass away. Students seemed to grab that message, and one by one, I heard voices expressing how difficult it is to cope with the feeling that something has been lost. I recall Thoreau in Walden expressing the following:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Quiet evenings like tonight are good for my soul, especially when I need to flush out the debris of bad sentiments. Working in my art studio often cleanses me, and I’m just glad that I had the space for such activities tonight.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to cope.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog when I need assurance that I am not alone.