Posts Tagged ‘landscape’

Finishing Touches

September 26, 2016


An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, to eschew violence where it is a fraudulent substitute for power, to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Ezra Pound, Literary Essays

Rising early this Monday morning, I decided to try and finish this piece I began as a demo for a workshop last Saturday. As I looked over the composition, I decided the lower right-hand corner needed more grass and texture work. Then, I decided to build an “action line” leading the eye from the lower right corner up to the barn in a serpentine fashion.

Thanks for reading. I’m ready to start a new one!



Lost in the Labyrinthe

March 19, 2016


Newman chose his terms ever so deliberately: “plasma” (or “plastic”) connotes an organic fluidity; it also suggests the more familiar word “plastic,” which refers to an organic quality in materials. Semantically, “plasmic” and “plastic” are closely related (they derive from the Greek word for molding or forming); but they are also inversions of one another, with the one term oriented to living organisms and the other to inert matter. Simply put, the plasmic is lively and active (like the movement of thought, it gives form to things), whereas the plastic is passive (it is the form that thought and other forces produce). The various drafts of “The Plasmic Image” explore the links between “plasmic” and “plastic,” between creative thought and the material form it can assume. Newman’s guiding metaphor is this: plasma, as the fluid part of the body communicates thought. Thus the plasmic and the plastic bond together whenever “the new painter is concerned with his subject matter, with his thought”.

Richard Shiff, Introduction to Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews

Countless times while posting on my blog, I feel that I am wearing my underwear on the outside. This is one of those moments. I love reading artist’s writings about the task of making art. Robert Motherwell has been a favorite of mine for years, and now, one of his contemporaries, Barnett Newman has crossed my desk. A former student of mine, Ian Watson, now a serious painter pursuing a path that has issued from his serious study of Abstract Expressionism, has passed on to me this book on Newman’s writings. Though my painting style is nowhere near the Abstract Expressionists, the more serious thinkers among them engage my mind in the most satisfying way. I don’t feel that I have a clear-cut aesthetic theory of art, or even a style for that matter. I love the process of making art, and love reading the thoughtful writings of artists who engage in that same enterprise, always hoping one day I will figure out what I am trying to do and express it well.

Finishing my term as Artist-in-Residence day before yesterday has yielded an experience similar to jumping into a warm pond after emerging from a sauna. Yesterday, back home for the first time, I spent the day in galleries and museums, searching for some kind of direction of where to go next in my work. I enjoyed the museum time, but nothing really clicked with my own work. I had trouble going to bed last night, finally succumbing at 2:00 a.m. Waking at 8:00, groggy, I made coffee, built a fire (wow, a delightful 43 degrees outside!), settled into my reading chair before the fireplace, and read extensively from Thoreau’s journals and Barnett Newman’s writings. Coming across the introductory quote posted above, I thought about that conflict between the artist’s mind and the materials s/he is trying to manipulate, and I looked up at this watercolor I started last year and abandoned.

The painting is of a section of bluff carved out by Highway 30 west of High Ridge, Missouri. I drove through that section last Thanksgiving on a dreary rainy morning, en route to my Texas home. I was so taken by the soaked landscape under the dark morning skies that I turned my vehicle around, drove back, got out in the rain and took several photos.Once I got home I began the painting enthusiastically, but nothing seemed to go right. I tossed it aside and forgot about it. Once I found it again this year, and wished to give it another try, I could not find my reference photos among my computer files. I wasted almost an entire Saturday morning looking for them. Disgusted, I put the watercolor next to the fireplace and went on with my life. Then, I came across the photos just before leaving on Spring Break for Corpus Christi. I thought about this painting the entire time I was on the coast.

Reading the comments on Newman’s theory jolted me and I returned to the drafting table. I love the slice of landscape I viewed that morning, and have re-visited countless times in my mind’s eye. And this morning, I decided to push my mind and imagination harder against the resistant colors and shapes to see if I could wrest some kind of pleasing composition from it. I keep working back and forth between the complementary violets and yellows as well as the greens and reds. And, as many times before, I am lost in the network of winter tree limbs that trace out a labyrinthe against the sky. I purchased an atomizer from Asel Art yesterday (I lost mine from 1974!) and sprayed some Hydrus liquid watercolor across certain areas. I feel like a small child in the classroom, but that is O.K. I’m back to the joy of discovering new artistic possibilities and am enjoying this ride in particular.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Finally Breaking Through

January 16, 2016


In recent days, I have tried to find another gear, editing earlier attempts of paintings of the Texas Laguna Madre, where I spent six days last summer as artist-in-residence. My major one-man-show opens at the Art Center in Corpus Christi at the beginning of March, so there are still some new works to be framed, and several scattered pieces that had been begun badly and tossed aside. The one pictured above is one of them. This painting started out so badly that I nearly discarded it a couple of times. This morning, looking at it over a cup of coffee, I determined to make one last run at it, and what I did worked (I believe). At any rate, I have now signed it and plan to deliver it for the show as well.

cactus among the flowers

Autumnal Rhapsody

December 7, 2015


Holiday conversations pulsated in the warm house

As I sat with coffee, gazing out the window

At falling yellow leaves

Flickering like fireflies

Descending backlit against burgundy shadows.

Sensing the gentle invitational tug,

I rose quietly amidst the talk,

Threaded my way through the crowded parlor,

And exited through the screen door.

Settling into an Adirondack chair,

Sitting quietly in the autumnal embrace,

I watched as a tree slowly grew

Across the waiting space of my sketchbook page.

. . . Thanks for reading.

Thanksgiving Hangover

November 27, 2015



Throughout this lovely Thanksgiving holiday season, I have managed to awaken every morning without an alarm and rise around 6:00.  I felt every morning that the muse was stirring, and I usually responded with a watercolor attempt, followed by quality reading and writing.  This morning I awoke again around 6:00 to a dark, rainy climate, and immediately sensed a Thanksgiving Hangover–no appointments today, no time to spend with friends or family, no culinary feast to enjoy, just a quiet, dark day to do as I please.  I found myself in the mood to read first, then sketch later.  The dim morning light never did intensify, so I finally looked out the window at a tree in the neighborhood and decided to give it a try with pencil.  The effort contained its own reward;  I always enjoy the process of making art, regardless of the outcome.  The process is always more fulfilling than the final picture viewing, for me.

I pulled a book from my library that I have enjoyed immensely since the mid 1980’s: Heinz Zahrnt, The Question of God: Prostestant Theology in the Twentieth Century, published in 1966.   It opens with the theological revolution of Karl Barth, and these words really resonated with me today:

Once it has pleased God to speak, all theology, being human speech about God, can only be a stammering repetition, a spelling out of what God has said, a thinking over of his thoughts.  

A long time ago, when I was in the pastoral ministry, I harbored these ideas as I went about the task of preparing weekly for the church pulpit. Convinced that God had spoken, I tried faithfully to reproduce in word and action the essence of the New Testament message.  Today I feel similar sensations as a plein air artist–the creation before me speaks in all its grandeur, and I haltingly attempt to capture its essence on paper with pencil and watercolor.  The response never reaches the heights of the primary stimulus, but boy, what a rush to participate in the task!  This morning has already been sublime, just from moments spent trying to record the essence of a tree in a sketchbook and writing in my journal responses from the heart to what I’m reading this morning.

Thanks for reading.

I make art to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Coffee and Thoughts about Art

October 30, 2015


The artist is the origin of the work.  The work is the origin of the artist.  Neither is without the other.  Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other.  In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

For three delicious evenings in a row, I was privileged to sit outside of La Madeleine’s Cafe in north Arlington, relishing the soothing autumn temperatures.  Drawing has become a relaxing past time for me, a quality time for unwinding after grueling classes each day.  In addition to my pencil sketches, I am loving this essay from Heidegger, which I have already read several times.  I am also reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy.  The latter I have known about since the 1980’s, have read many critical reviews and abstracts of it, but never actually read the book itself.  I started it several days ago and am enjoying it to the max.  Heidegger and Nietzsche wax eloquent when they write of aesthetics, and frankly, that is a subject that has always left me tongue-tied.  I know art theory in an intuitive sense, and understand the critical vocabulary that critics love so much.  But when it comes time for me to express it verbally, I am quite flummoxed.

I am saddened that my high school art teacher, Robie Scucchi passed away years ago, without my ever getting back to him to tell him how important those years have become when he patiently instructed me.  He was a master at abstract painting, and certainly understood the aesthetic principles undergirding that type of art.  When I was in tenth grade, he forced me into abstract painting, and I resisted harshly.  When I finally came around, I could not learn fast enough, and next thing I knew, he had moved on to Mississippi State College.  We only spoke twice after he left, and now I regret deeply that I cannot talk with him and thank him for what he instilled in me.  Last night, as I sat scribbling out the tree posted above, I employed many abstract principles into the design, weaving them into the drawing, and thinking of the master who taught me.

It saddens me further that the other student whom I knew since age 5 also wrestled with Mr. Scucchi over these principles, and also came around.  He and I were able to hold many subsequent conversations about abstraction, though both of us turned to making representational art throughout our lives.  But he too, has passed away, and I no longer have his conversation to engage.  I am fortunate still to have breath and strength within me to keep pushing this envelope, but at the same time, I really miss those two artistic comrades.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Tweaking the Balloon Sketch

September 22, 2014

It was time to “flesh out” the right-hand portion of this sketch.  I began watercolor sketching the trees adjacent to the Plano Balloon Fest site, but did not get a chance to finish before the balloons began to launch.  Once the balloons lifted, the trees had become silhouettes in the western sky and I decided to call it quits for the evening.

Today after school, I took out my supplies and worked on the right side, signed the piece, and declared it “finished.”  I’m glad to have a record of that memorable evening last Saturday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.image

Painting an Aging Desoto en Plein Air

May 20, 2011

Tripp Painting an Aging Desoto en Plein Air

My photographer friend and mentor Bill Barksdale photographed me early in the morning, painting this abandoned Desoto on the property of Helen Lacefield in Cotter, Arkansas.  It was the ideal morning for a plein air experience in painting.  The morning air was sweet, the Arkansas sunrise was gentle, cool breezes kissed the pastureland and caressed my face.  I felt an abiding Presence even while alone as the morning extended.  My profound thanks to Bill for recording this event which will last with me a very long time.

Thanks for reading.  One more day left in the Plein Air on the White River event.

Part 3 of the Entire Saturday of Plein Air Watercolor Painting

May 8, 2011

Andrew Wyeth Meditation on a Tree

This was my final successful stop on my all-day Saturday plein air excursions.  I stopped occasionally for coffee, journaling, and a little book store browsing.  There are two more tree studies in progress, but not good enough to post and blog.  Perhaps I will return and make something better of them.  The winds really got up, and thank goodness for a good Winsor & Newton watercolor easel with a successful mechanism for clamping the watercolor block in place.  Everything else, including my leather art bag, was getting knocked over by the gusting winds.

All I can say about this work is that I got totally lost in the bark of the trunk.  I felt as though I were “channeling” Andrew Wyeth, though I realize how arrogant that sounds.  I don’t pretend to approach his greatness, his eye, his technique.  But what I intend to say is–I feel for the first time in years that I have a sense of how he must have felt when he got lost in a dry brush study to the point where he lost all track of time.  I honestly don’t know how long I lingered over this work, but it was totally satisfying and I didn’t want the day to end.  When I get lost like that, or “in the zone” of watercoloring, I wish that I could seize the tail of that comet and ride it forever.  But alas, Proust has reminded us that all attempts to seize such Gifts result in their dissolution.  And so this study came to an end, but I cannot wait for the next time such a Moment arrives.  I’m still grateful for the experience this day as I think over yesterday’s activities.

Thanks for reading.

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011

Labadie, Missouri Snowscape

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I have always felt dreamy when hearing these Robert Frost words from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  For any of you who have followed my blog, you have seen this composition before: while Christmas vacationing in Missouri, I paused at the back door of the apartment we stayed in while visiting with Wayne White on his Double D Acres ranch.  Seeing the lovely woods shrouded in snow, I had to capture them quickly in drybrush watercolor, on a block measuring 8 x 10″.  As soon as I returned to Texas, a dear friend purchased the small sketch, but I could not forget the scene.  Hence I pulled my digital photo of it, printed off an 8 x 10″, and went quickly to work on this 12 x 18″ composition.  I have a good feeling about this one, though it has come along very slowly, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.  Sometimes a long gestation period works with my paintings.

The interruptions have meant plenty of “down time” for this piece: I have two other large watercolors in progress (already posted on this blog).  I have also spent time in L.A. on school business (sketches from there already posted as well).  I’m also teaching two college courses at night, in addition to my “day job” at the high school.  Hence I have had problems getting back to this one.  So why is today different?

Well, this morning we were awakened by a 5:15 phone call that school was canceled for the day.  Looking outside at the solid sheet of ice that covered everything in my neighborhood, I was seized with delight, made coffee and returned to bed with an excellent book:  Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. While enjoying this remarkable book, my BlackBerry tinkled a Facebook message and what did I find? A former student’s photograph of her lovely little daughter watercoloring in the living room, titled “The artist in residence: snowy day watercolors.”  That was enough!  I returned to my studio, since piled high with books and journals, cleared a path for my art work, and resumed work on this piece.

Always I am amazed when I pore over an Andrew Wyeth snowy drybrush piece.  Naturally, as I tinker with this one of my own, brushing, dragging, salting, spattering and drawing, I will ruminate over his magnificent contribution and how much it has enriched me since the first time I saw his work in 1968 as a curious, yet awkward high school freshman Art I student.  Thank you, Mr. Wyeth.  I miss you, and will always treasure your Chadds Ford and Cushing meditations.