Posts Tagged ‘Muddy Waters’

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.

Watercoloring Saint Ignatius, One Window at a Time

April 23, 2012

Saint Ignatius South Facade

Having managed only three hours’ sleep last night, I found myself rather sluggish today.  However, I managed to shrug some of it off late this afternoon and returned to work on my waiting Saint Ignatius watercolor.  Today I worked on the windows on the top two stories, adding color to the panels that are still visible, and continuing to refine the rusticated exterior of that magnificent facade.  I don’t know how much later I can stay with it tonight, but the neighborhood is certainly quiet and peaceful in the darkness, with soft muffled occasional sounds drifting my way.  The air has turned quite cool, and I love that about the Texas spring evenings.  Muddy Waters is keeping me company with his punctuated vocals and guitar.  I love listening to “Same Thing.”

Thanks for reading.

Saint Ignatius Watercolor in Progress

April 19, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy

It has been awhile since I posted this entire watercolor in progress (28 x 22″).  I’m lost in the size of it, and today have only worked on a few square inches along the top story windows to the right.  Even I myself don’t see the forest for the trees, as I work on those windows, and completely ignore everything happening down below.  I’ve determined that when I next approach this (tonight or early tomorrow morning) I’m going to see about balancing the mansard roof green tiles with the green landscaping below, and make some decisions about reds or pinks to complement.  I always have trouble balancing out my compositions, especially when they are monstrously large and complex as this one is.

Before I close this out, I have to say that Muddy Waters has been a phenomenal studio partner this evening.  I’m listening to vinyl and enjoying my old turntable.  Tonight I have been playing his Fathers and Sons album, featuring Muddy along with Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Sam Lay and Buddy Miles.  I had never before paid much attention to his “Mean Disposition” but it really go hold of me this afternoon, and I cannot seem to play it and listen to it enough.  Anyway, nice to have Blues music playing while I crawl all over the side of this magnificent Catholic structure.

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to take a break before returning to this.

Arranging Studio Space for a New Student

March 19, 2012

Studio Workshop of Recollections 54

This space has certainly evolved.  For about the last four years, I have been in a perpetual migration, searching for studio space to experiment in watercolors.  I have enjoyed the extra bedroom in my house that formerly served as a study for my high school and college preparations.   I have also been grateful to the Burson Gallery in Hillsboro for providing studio space during summer months over the years.  I have as well enjoyed the back of my open Jeep Grand Cherokee, the idyllic pasture lands of Lyndon Acres in Burleson, and anyplace else I could park to work in watercolor, whether en plein air or in an enclosed room.

Over the past year, I have been carving out space in my garage, laughingly calling it the Man Cave.  But recently, I have taken this space more seriously, especially enjoying its sweet solitude late at night, with the door open, and the cool evening Texas breezes filling it.  During Spring Break, I spent most nights (and mornings after midnight) in this space.

Having recently moved my art festival booth furnishings to the perimeter of this space, I hatched this wild idea last week of converting this into a studio space to accommodate more than one person.  That idea filled some of the space of my Spring Break.  I especially enjoy now the presence of a portable TV/VCR where I have been rolling interview tapes of Willem de Kooning.  I’m also benefiting from my vintage stereo and turntable (LOVE listening to Muddy Waters LPs!).  I also have several easels upon which I can put up my works in progress and view them from across the garage while I’m working on something else.  I have two bookcases filled with my art, literature and philosophy monographs, as well as a number of comfortable chairs and reading lamps, along with five tables with ample space for organizing paintings, art supplies, journal, laptop and whatever else I need.  I feel that I could compete with Robert Motherwell as to library/studio/office space, though I could no doubt have used a portion of his financial fortune for a “prettier, classier'” space.

The timing of this couldn’t be better.  An artist from Wichita, Kansas is due early this evening to take several hours of private watercolor lessons from me.  He has come to visit his daughter who lives in a nearby town.  We met at the Grapefest art festival last fall in Grapevine, he took my business card and inquired about private lessons.  So, now he is choosing to give me a chance.

I don’t know exactly how to put this–I don’t feel like a “master.”  I don’t.  I’m still a curious student of watecolor, still learning, still experimenting, still reading, still devouring museum art and trying to find myself in this wonderful medium.  But having been a teacher of academics since 1985, I will honestly say that I love teaching, I love giving, pouring out my heart and passion, in any way that will benefit someone wanting to learn new things.  And I am profoundly grateful to this man for giving me yet another chance this evening to share these things.  I cannot wait for him to arrive (and I hope my space suits him, as he will be the first “customer” to enter and use this space!).

Thanks for reading.  I still have some tidying to do, as you can see from this photo.

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

March 15, 2011

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

It’s nearly 10:00 p.m.  I have Muddy Waters playing on my turntable in the garage, and I’m suddenly seized with this compulsion to try an Andrew Wyeth-style drybrush of a Texas winter tree I photographed a few days ago while fly fishing in rural Hillsboro.  I was out fishing with a long-time buddy of mine from Lamar High School days–a custodian who always looked out for me in those days when I struggled as an inexperienced art teacher.

The crappie were hitting pretty good that day, but I couldn’t stop staring at this winter tree out in the overgrown pasture near the pond where I fished.  The Texas landscape is strewn with these druidic-looking trees, dripping with character.  The entire winter scene that afternoon looked like an Andrew Wyeth drybrush or tempera.  I have never been satisfied with my watercolor trees.  Something is still missing.  So, again I give it the old college try.  I need to capture that “essence” as the 6th-century Chinese painting master would have it.  I have a strong feeling that I will be giving this one multiple tries this week–it’s really gotten under my skin.  There are a host of subjects that hold my attention in watercolor, but these Texas winter trees always escape my brush and pencil.  So, let’s see what happens this week.

Thanks for reading.  Spring Break has been absolutely wonderful for a musing watercolorist!

Exploring Edward Hopper with Victorian Architecture

March 15, 2011
 

Victorian cropped

Revisiting Edward Hopper and Victorian Architecture

Spring Break has afforded quality watercolor time, and it is only Tuesday evening.  Daylight Saving Time has given me more quality outdoor light in the afternoon/evening as well.  The garage studio environment has been sublime for painting, reading, journaling and blogging.  I moved my antiquated stereo into the garage and am now enjoying a turntable that I haven’t played in a couple of years. Currently, I’m enjoying a pirated double-LP recording of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at the Los Angeles Forum 6-26-1970.  Standing in waiting is a large stack of blues LPs–Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee, B. B. King, Son House, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.

The pictures posted above are my attempt to paint a Victorian mansion I have admired for years, situated high atop a hill in Weatherford, Texas, along Highway 180.  A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was en route to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom to do some fly fishing for recently-stocked rainbow trout.  The sun was strong that morning, and as I drove past this mansion, I had to pull over, turn around, return, get out and shoot some photos of it.  Finally I’m getting around to attempting my first watercolor on full-size paper (about 30 x 22″) with nearly 2/3 of the composition being hillside.  I’m flying blind here–don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with all this grass!  However, the mansion is coming along satisfactorily, and if I decide the grass isn’t working out, I can always take this to the paper cutter!  That should relieve some of the pressure I feel.

T. S. Eliot has been my companion for the day.  I’ve been spending plenty of time in “The Waste Land,” and am now reading the Eliot chapter in Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds. I’m fascinated with this poet, and am pleased that I can learn from his creative endeavor, even if he struggled over language the way I do over drawing.  I just finished reading a letter he wrote to his brother, explaining that he chose to write fewer pieces, concentrating on perfection and making each completed piece an “event” rather than being merely “prolific” and publishing pieces everywhere.  My goal in 2010 was to be prolific, as I have averaged less than twenty watercolors per year.  I completed nearly one hundred in 2010.  This year however, with my first ever one-man-show scheduled for September, I am concentrating on fewer and larger compositions, attempting to make every complete painting worthy of framing.  I know that is plenty to expect, but nevertheless, I am trying for quality over productivity this year.

And I’m certainly pushing some boundaries.  One of Edward Hopper’s neighboring artists commented that Hopper planned out each of his oils completely before he even started the composition.  The neighbor thought that was “a terrible way to paint, because you aren’t discovering anything.”  The critic went on to express admiration for Hopper’s watercolors “because in them you seem him experimenting all the time.”  I’m trying to keep this thought before me, and push each new piece I begin in a direction not familiar to me.  I don’t want to settle into any kind of “hack work,” pushing out watercolors for the trade.  So .  . . with this Victorian set high atop a hill, I try to complete my first Victorian in entirety (all my previous works are only partial studies of Victorian buildings, never completed), and I also try to devote some attention to a large plot of cultivated property.  We’ll see how it goes . . .

Thanks for reading.