Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

A Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016

waynes-bluff

Wayne’s Bluff

high-ridge-bluff-2

David’s Bluff

number three (2)

Ron and Dian’s Bluff

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Preparing for the upcoming Edom Festival of the Arts has put me in a satisfying frame of mind. Sorting through stacks of watercolors has floated abundant memories toward the surface of a resistant consciousness–resistant mostly due to fall semester industry.  Most of these memories have been most welcome–memories spanning the splendid summer of 2016.

Pulling three watercolors of bluffs from the stack, I have chosen to name the first one after a friend of mine known since the second grade.  Wayne and I have recently re-connected, thanks to Facebook, and have spent some quality time on Missouri rivers kayaking and fishing. I miss him during the months I live in Texas, as he still resides near my home town in Missouri.

The second bluff I have given my own name.  The memory of that post-Thanksgiving morning of 2015 when I was driving through the rain still stays with me.  The memory is mostly comforting.  At any rate, I enjoy looking at this composition as the location is only about four miles from where I lived throughout my youth.

The final painting I did en plein air while vacationing with my friends Ron and Dian Darr in South Fork, Colorado.  I worked on three paintings in this genre outside their travel trailer as we ate and visited together.  Every time I look at this painting, I recall how delicious times are when spent in conversation with these two kindred spirits.

When I sit in my booth in Edom this weekend, I’ll be looking at these works, feeling gratitude for the generous hand life has extended to me.

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.

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Ancestral Voices

August 19, 2016

bluff 2

Trying to pierce the mystery with our categories is like trying to bite a wall. Science extends rather than limits the scope of the ineffable, and our radical amazement is enhanced rather than reduced by the advancement of knowledge.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Good morning, Friends. I awoke with the thoughts of the divine Abraham Heschel surging through me. I guess it is nearly time to start school again. And I am ready, spiritually (intellectually may be another matter). Today is Friday, the last assigned day to have our classrooms ready (although we are allowed access tomorrow, if necessary).

Mornings that begin over a watercolor are better than those that do not. Over coffee, I lingered awhile re-reading this magnificent biography by Robert Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire. While reading and allowing my mind to drift, I thought over the collage of role models who have motivated me over nearly three decades of classroom experience: the erudition of Paul Tillich, eloquence of Emerson, wildness of Thoreau, inventiveness of Shakespeare, alertness of William Carlos Williams, confidence of Walt Whitman, daring of Picasso, and more recently the sensitivity of Annie Dillard. I suppose I’m never sure what exactly David Tripp will be as the semester unfolds, but in these later years, I hope I’m not as conscious of that as I am of the richness of ideas, dreams and explorations offered as we enter that arena of education.

This watercolor I’ve posted is a small sketch, approximately 9 x 12″ unframed. I think it may be done, and will probably decide when I get home from school this afternoon. I’m ready to plunge into a larger work, more like 18 x 24″ taking as my subject another of the Big River bluffs my friend Wayne White photographed and sent to me.  Again, I can relive the kayaking experiences I knew this summer with both Wayne and Mark Nelson, grateful that such gifts are still offered in this life.

Time to leave for school, again. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to know.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

They’re Coming, and I’m Ready

August 18, 2016

bluff

The whole secret of the teacher’s force lies in the conviction that men are convertible. And they are. They want awakening. Get the soul out of bed, out of her deep habitual sleep, out into God’s universe, to a perception of its beauty, and hearing of its call, and your vulgar man, your prosy, selfish sensualist awakes, a god, and is conscious of force to shake the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, April 20, 1834

Today the anticipated feeling arrived. Today I rose to enter my classroom, free of any further meetings this week, free to retreat to my classroom, my sanctuary, and prepare for the arrival of students Monday morning. I still have tomorrow, and Saturday, if necessary to finish preparations, and my spirits are rising.

Monday is when the magic may begin. Students will enter my world, my sanctuary, my playground, Room 114 of Martin High School. They are invited to enter my arena of ideas, of enthusiasm, of new beginnings. Art, philosophy, literature, the humanities, the core of human creativity–these are the forces beckon all of us to partake in the Event. As Whitman wrote: “the powerful play moves on, and you may contribute a verse.”

I have been told that my students are lucky to have me. I always appreciate that kind word. But it is I who am lucky to have them. They are the ones who keep me alive. They are the ones who challenge me. They are the ones who ask questions I can never anticipate. The curiosity is epidemic, and they are the carriers, not I. So I look forward to a new year, to new beginnings, to a new hope.

After a week of watercolor dormancy, I am happy that I got to pick up the brush again this evening. My friend Wayne White shot a magnificent photograph while kayaking the Big River in Missouri, and was kind enough to send the image to me. I’m working hard to reproduce the wonders and floods of feelings I get every time I look at this image and remember one of the highlights of my summer vacation. Thanks, Wayne.

And thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

The Greatest Poem

August 13, 2016

station new

The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.

Walt Whitman, 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

Good morning, Beautiful People. Aren’t Saturdays luxurious when one is allowed to sleep in, recharge the weary batteries weakened by the week, make coffee and enjoy the silence and space? I wanted to take this moment and post a watercolor I finally completed, a small one (9 x 12″ unframed) of a restored 1921 Shell station in New Cambria, Missouri.  A dear friend from high school had alerted me to its existence, and with difficulty I was able to gain access and take a number of reference photos.  The image has been emblazoned in my mind’s eye for about a month, and I’m glad finally to bring this small composition to its conclusion.

I have posted Whitman’s quote because for months I’ve been hearing a myriad of unnecessary, unpleasant remarks being tossed about on the air waves and social media as this current election runs its bloody course. I love Whitman’s assessment of this country and its beauty in that a number of disparate peoples have been knitted together in a pattern of cities, counties and states to create a United States. I am stirred by that metaphor.

But I am more deeply stirred when I encounter that word “poem” derived from the Greek poiēma and better translated “work of art.” The letter to the Ephesians in 2:10 states “for we are his workmanship” (King James Version), the translation of poiēma. Some translations prefer “handiwork.” I like the idea of you being a poem, a work of art, something splendid that has been created and given as a Gift to this world.

So, whatever happens to you on this day, I urge you to pause and reflect on the magnificent poem that is you.  Unique.  There is no one else like you in this culture, and you are placed here where you can color and enrich those who surround you.  Above all, be a Gift to yourself.  Love yourself.  Take great joy in that you are what you are.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching on a Friday

July 29, 2016

daves diner

There are three aspects of nature which command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur.  Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Closing out a sublime vacation has always proved difficult for me. This morning I ventured into an old-fashioned diner for an old-fashioned breakfast. When I stepped outside, the unseasonable Missouri temperatures were suspended at 81 degrees. Without a moment’s hesitation, I fetched my journal and packet of pencils from my vehicle and took a seat on the sidewalk outside, adjacent to the Post Office in High Ridge, Missouri, and sketched a tree stretching over the fence of the property next door.  The traffic swished, the birds chirped, the breeze chased loose leaves and debris across the paved parking lot stretched out before me. And I felt that I was embraced by nature’s grandeur.  Unfortunately the photo above is not sharp, because I cropped it from the corner of the journal where I was writing my most private thoughts.

I was sad to close a three-day chapter with friends I knew from high school.  We laugh at ourselves (old farts) when we gather to kayak and fish the river (the Gasconade this time). But on a sober note, I miss these guys sorely right now-their stories, their laughter, their ideas and above all, the fact that they no longer take themselves as seriously as half-a-century ago.  We are not the center of the world as we thought we were in high school. As it turns out, our parents and teachers knew what they were talking about (most of the time) when they tried to teach us how to live and succeed. I never thought I would be caught talking about “the good old days” but now that it’s happened, I can genuinely say I feel much better about life all around now. Thanks, Mark and Wayne.  I can’t wait till the next time . . .

fishin.jpg

fishin 2

I had to lay down the brush a few days ago to make way for the river and fishing. Today I’m just sitting quietly with my reading and my thoughts, glad for the respite from work, and gladder still that school is still a few weeks away.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I’m not really alone.

The River Calls to Me

July 25, 2016

cliff

River Bluff photographed by Wayne White http://www.doubledacres.com/

Everything flows; nothing remains.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Cooling rains have darkened Missouri this Monday morning for a spell. Over coffee, I’m enjoying a quiet space before I pack and drive ninety minutes to join two high school comrades for a fishing excursion on the Gasconade River. Reports of smallmouth bass activity are encouraging, and I am ready to leave civilization for awhile once again. The rhythm of advance and retreat has punctuated my spiritual pulse throughout the life cycles between society and wilderness, public and private. From my early years in the ministry and later years in education, I have recalled with interest the traffic patterns of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, a life of advance and retreat between the Galilean villages and the wilderness. Every time his public ministry heated up with intensity, a pericope follows recording his withdrawal into solitude. Likewise my vacation stretch over the past week has vacillated between a roomful of relatives or friends and my withdrawal into quiet solitude.

My imagination wanders down many corridors as I contemplate that pregnant passage from Heraclitus, as he viewed the essence of reality as a river–always flowing, changing, and never remaining fixed.  Later, Parmenides would counter with his worldview of Being as a static, eternal essence, with change existing only as an illusion. My personal view sees both extremes, like that bluff pictured above, holding steadfast as a river flows past it. The older I get, the more initrigued I become with life, looking over my own past, as well as studying the history of our magnificent globe, pondering the changes while at the same time seeking some kind of bedrock, some fixed point, some kind of an anchor.  I think we all do that.  Every time I retreat to a vacation and abandon my personal day-to-day work schedule, I think on the myriad of details that flow by around the clock, and muse over what matters, what remains fixed in my consciousness and desire.  Moments like this are the best portions of a vacation, to me.

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.

Musing Across the Miles

July 24, 2016

Shell 11921 Shell Station from New Cambria, Missouri

new cambria (2)

Early Watercolor Attempt

When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout; there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

This splendorous Sunday morning has filled me with a desire to pour out the last few weeks of my summer life. My blog posting has stalled, but daily enchantments have unfolded in the most fascinating manner. My friend Stacy and I were browsing Half Price Books a few weeks back, and the Peter London book caught me off guard.  I had never heard of the author, and the book was in the art section of the store. When I sat at a table with it, my pulse quickened as I read his opening words:

Suppose Genesis misspoke.

We never left Eden.

Nature, just as it is, is Eden,

And we are still there.

We remain in our first, our only, our exquisite home.

And we behave otherwise.

We must awaken to where we are,

And thus who we are.

Having just returned from a week in Colorado where I refueled my spirits in plein air painting and fly fishing, I embraced this book, and it has been a soul-stirring companion ever since. I opened this blog with his musings over what happens when an artist becomes stagnated, and the words recalled the Jeremiah text that I had tucked into my soul since university days over forty years ago. When I look back over my recent art activity, I know I have been prolific, but the content of my work was emanating a staleness to me, and I have been pondering ways to get the streams flowing again. Prolific is better than being blocked, but when you reach a point that you feel you are doing little more than whipping out art pieces for the trade, satisfaction wanes.  Moving waters inspire me, filling me with ideas about life and its effervescence. But just because I am making stacks of art doesn’t guarantee a freshness in the product. I love this book because he extends what I love the most from Emerson, Thoreau and Dillard.  I just cannot seem to find enough of these kinds of texts.

My dear friend Linda from high school days alerted me on facebook weeks ago about this restored Shell gas station from New Cambria, Missouri, dating back to 1921.  I knew I would be returning to Missouri for another vacation before school resumed in the fall, so I tucked the station into my memory, and decided to find it once I set out on my trek across the Midwest.

Locating the site did not prove easy, and thanks to my friend Mark sending the Google Map coordinates, I finally caught sight of the station, far to the south of highway 36, with no road leading to it.  The exit from the highway is a driveway leading to the house of the lady who owns the station, and the only reason I finally walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell was due to the experience I had trying to access the old highway 36 that actually reaches the station.  To get there, one must navigate a stetch of old blacktop road strewn with wrecked cars, wrecked residences, and a large sign reading:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE IN RANGE

How does a Texas watercolorist wishing to photograph a landmark convince a community of idiots that he means no harm? I am infuriated to this day at the thought that someone may have been aiming a rifle at me as I navigated that waste land, trying to find my way to the station. Finally, I turned back and drove up to the house above the property, just off the main highway, and reluctantly rang the doorbell.  To my relief, I encountered a beautiful soul who was gracious and willing to lead the way as we drove our vehicles over the rough terrain descending several hundred yards into the valley where the station is nestled.

Since I’ve been at my parents’ house, I’ve made some attempts to watercolor this station.  It’s bloody hot outside, and using their carport as a studio has its advantages with the sounds of the outdoors fueling my imagination, but the heat index makes long sessions prohibitive.  Hence, not much has been done yet.  I may have to wait and get this work back into my own studio back home.

flowers tree

During an Austin weekend, I sat outside and sketched part of a large tree in front of me.  But again, heat prohibited me from staying with it for very long.

flowers easel

On this Missouri vacation, I found some very cool shady mornings last week and tried my hand at some lovely cone flowers.  As the sun climbed late into the morning, temperatures convinced me to stop.  The painting above was my first attempt, and I enjoyed the layers of masquing to get the layers of flowers and stems I enjoyed viewing. The painting below I tried on the second consecutive morning, again finding the shade trees to provide a temporary respite.  This summer is brutal in Missouri as well as Texas.

flowers

 The vacation reading has been restorative to my soul, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a number of other watercolors I have begun but not yet posted.  I’ll go ahead and post below a train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with which I also got an early start, but haven’t had the time to return to and work futher:

esrxr

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.

Returning to the Muse

April 13, 2014
Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Michelangelo, El Greco, Rembrandt imitated; Raphael imitated, and Poussin, Velásquez and Goya; Delacroix, Manet and Cézanne . . . whenever documents allow us to go back to the origin of a painter’s works, or a sculptor’s, or any artist’s, we encounter . . . the dreams, the anguish, or the serenity of another artist.  For artists do not emerge full-grown from a formless world, but from their struggle against the forms imposed by others.

André Malraux

Henri Matisse and Eugene Delacroix often spoke of “cleansing the eye” after a long hiatus from painting.  It has been weeks since I’ve been able to look at this painting.  Now that the intrusions from common life’s tasks have been addressed, I’m glad to linger over this watercolor tonight and resume work that I reluctantly abandoned long ago.  Kick-starting this has not been easy.  I find myself poring over the reference photo, taking in details, and constantly asking questions like: “How would Hopper have addressed this?” or “How would Wyeth render this?” or “Would Homer have included this detail?”  Thus I’ve inserted for my own good the quote above that all artists work in dialogue with their predecessors and ultimately (hopefully) find their own way in the end.  I’m still searching for my voice among these multitudes, my signature, my contribution.  Yet in the midst of all this, I’m just happy to be painting again.

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.

Watercoloring Arcadia

February 19, 2014
Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in.  Embark, and the romance quits our vessel and hangs on every other sail in the horizon.  Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it.  Men seem to have learned of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and reference.  “Yonder uplands are rich pasturage, and my neighbor has fertile meadow, but my field,” says the querulous farmer, “only holds the world together.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I return to this Emerson statement every time I catch myself wishing I didn’t live in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas.  As a watercolorist, I have wished I could make my home in the Colorado Rockies, New England, the rolling Midwest–anywhere but in a Texas metroplex choked with streets and suburbs.  I deal with these feelings now as I look through my photo files and pull up the Hermann, Missouri visit last Christmas season.  I have decided to tackle one of the old downtown street scenes again, on a much larger scale than before.

This afternoon, I took a walk through my own suburbs after lunch, trying to regain strength lost during the past week’s illness.  And the longer I walked, the more aware I became of how weak I am currently.  I suppose it’s going to take some more days of walking to retrieve that sense of vitality.  But as I walked, I recalled the Hermann downtown that I loved so much when I strolled it at the end of last year.  Granted, the temperatures were frigid, but the colors were strong, and the winter light so beautiful to my eye.  I don’t pretend to have the French Impressionist skill of capturing atmospheric effects, but at least as I work on this, I can recall the scintillating beauty I knew that day as I walked the town high above the banks of the Missouri River.

At my current age, I realize fully that these notions of mine are Arcadian dreams.  I doubt that Colorado or New England folk would rather be living in Arlington (unless they think there’s pizzass to sharing a city with two professional sports stadiums).  But I also know that living in those regions would not make me any more of an artist than I am at this point.  I’ll continue to relish opportunities to see vistas firsthand and render them en plein air.  But when that is not possible, I still have my photographs and memories for reference.  And the later Edward Hopper painted less from “the fact” and more from his memory and imagination.  It worked for him.  I’m confident it will work for me.

I just love this Hermann, Missouri vista, and felt genuine joy in the waning moments of this afternoon as I worked in my studio.  The fading light slanting through my studio windows fell on this watercolor page and gave me the atmosphere I wanted for working on a winter scene (this afternoon in Arlington was dark and wintry-looking outside though the temperatures remained high).  I picked up the large brush again and enjoyed blocking in large areas of wash.  As for the details, I was in the mood for tedium, for tight, exacting work.  My eyes are finally comfortable with focussing.  It’s seemed such a long time since I’ve been in this zone.  I hope I get some more opportunity tomorrow.

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.

Solitude

March 12, 2013
Inspired by WInslow Homer's "The Whittling Boy"

Inspired by Winslow Homer’s “The Whittling Boy”

We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.”

Montaigne

I have borrowed (again) from a Winslow homer oil painting, “The Whittling Boy.”  I needed a fishing subject, so I took the jack knife and stick out of his hands, replacing it with a fishing pole.  This could very well be a portrait of myself, holding a cane pole, age eight, fishing one of the holes of Little Indian Creek down the slope from Aunt Bea’s house in rural Jackson, Missouri.  It was there that my father, of Cherokee descent, taught me to fish, and instilled in me the love for the solitude that accompanies it.  I still remember the first time he took me to the creek, threaded a grub worm on my hook, and showed me how to toss the line out into the current.  The bobber immediately went under, and my very first fish was a blue catfish.  I caught ten fish that day, thinking they were all giants, until I noticed all of them swimming comfortably in a single jar filled with water.  We had no stringer with us.  But that was O.K.  I had the privilege of releasing them, watching all of them scurry back to their dark refuge in that waist-deep hole.  I painted this boy in memory of my first time on the creek.

I am happier with the simultaneous contrasts in this composition.  I had struggled with them in the prior work.  I relied on my standby–Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson for the darker areas.  In the mid-tones I tried Winsor Blue (Red Shade) with Transparent Yellow, then glazed Winsor Red over the top, once the colors underneath had dried.  The results were tints of gold and bronze.  I’m going to try this again with a different composition.

It’s been another good Spring Break day for painting.  Thank you for reading.