Posts Tagged ‘Robertsville’

Finished the Route 66 Gas Station Watercolor

February 23, 2012

Abandoned Gas Station in Robertsville, Missouri

Despite another night’s restless sleep, I somehow found the energy and enthusiasm today to push out the remainder of this watercolor and declare it a fait accompli.  As stated in prior posts, the abandoned service station is located at Robertsville, Missouri, west of St. Louis near historic route 66, six miles southwest of Pacific.  I created an earlier version titled “Cold Desolation” which is a frontal view of the station.

Though my body is ragged from lack of sleep, I feel compelled to write about this satisfying day in the classroom.  My topic in regular Art History covered the Neo-Classical, Romantic and Realist periods of European and American painting.  As I lectured through these areas, I found my personal life and my art connecting more intimately with these periods than ever before.

The Neo-Classical era of painting, corresponding with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, focused on discipline, precision, draughtsmanship and composition.  It was an era of painting beset by rules and clarity of presentation.  Speaking of my own artistic endeavors, I have always been more of a draughtsman than a painter.  My painting professor from Vienna always told me that I created “colored drawings.”  I suppose that has something to do with my settling on watercolor as a means of expression, since I pursue it as an extension of drawing, and while creating a composition such as the one just posted, I feel that I am drawing 90% of it, and making an effort to paint the rest.  Moreover, as I worked at this piece, I was constantly stepping back to view it from a distance and make decisions concerning contrast, area of focus, warm vs. cool colors, and high vs. low intensity.  Compositional questions dogged me throughout this work.  So yes, I feel a Neo-Classical strain as I work at my art.

After the Neo-Classicists had their day in court, the pendulum swung to a movement we call Romanticism.  This group of painters rejected the structural “Apollonian” disciplines and rule-following of the classical style, and preferred instead to explore the spontaneity, the dark side, the emotive side of the human experience.  Dionysus seems to be the patron deity of this movement, as Goya, Gericault and Delacroix launched excursions into the turbulent side of life.  When I showed my students the watercolor and pencil rendering of the ruins of the Medieval cathedral at Tintern Abbey, by Joseph Mallord William Turner, I tried to convey to them the dual sense of loss and presence one can feel when regarding an abandoned subject.  My own company Recollections 54 (http://recollections54.com) focuses on abandoned subjects, and the more I study and paint them, the more I feel that dual experience.  I was glad when school finally ended today.  I was ready to re-enter the garage studio and finish this painting, seeking to inject into it some sense of loss, abandonment and opportunities missed.  I feel the Romantic strain when I focus on these kinds of subjects in painting, and I know the overwhelming feelings expressed by Wordsworth in his “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.”

Realism followed on the heels of the Neo-Classical and Romantic movements.  G. W. F. Hegel has left us with a philosophy of history that focuses on dual movements (thesis and antithesis) that become locked in dispute, and when a resolution arises that somehow finds a consensus between them, we call it a synthesis.  That is what the Realist school of painting seemed to do.  The artists could acknowledge that life contains rules and structure on the one hand, and the opposite extreme of romance and risk on the other, but life for the most part is Aristotle’s Golden Mean between the extremes.  Life involves going to work everyday, paying bills, eating, sleeping, and navigating through the extremes of success and failure.  The school of Realism wants to show slices of everyday life as they really are.  They thought history was for the past and romance was for dreamers.

Sometimes, I feel that my paintings reflect more the school of Realism than that of the Classics or Romance.  They are paintings of bland, dull, quiet, discarded subjects from daily life that the majority will pass without a look.  And the more I labor to turn them into works of art, applying disciplinary compositional techniques (Neo-Classical) or injecting them with drama (Romantic), the more I come away saying, “These are just subjects from the real, gray world, nothing more.”  Interestingly enough, I have never been able to separate my art from my profession, any more than one can separate the creation from its creator.  The reality is that I am a public schoolteacher, often with ideas and talk that exceed my accomplishments.  That alone could render me a Realist.  But my final word is this–I am, in the final word, an unfrustrated artist who always finds the act of creating a source of genuine joy and satisfaction, even when the work of art falls below expectations.  Like a satisfied fly fisherman returning from the stream with an empty creel who says, “It was still beautiful being out on the stream, breathing, relaxing, and listening to the 4-count rhythm of my fly casting.”

Another watercolor in the hopper.  A very satisfying day in the classroom as well as in the studio.  And a chance to think through some large issues that inspired the genius of Enlightenment thinkers and artists.  Thank you for reading and taking time to share this one with me.

Filling Station Desolation, still in progress

February 22, 2012

Robertsville, Missouri Abandoned Filling Station

I admit surprise at how fast this large watercolor is coming together.  I’m used to longer stretches of time for “composting” as I think through what I want to do exactly.  But time to paint is really scarce these days, and when I approach this particular watercolor, I seem to be painting faster.  Today I added the dark trees on the left border and worked on the power line as well as the guidewire attached to the post at the left.  I’m still tinkering with the drybrush weeds along the left as well.  I’m not sure what to do next, so I thought I would go ahead and put this on the blog to let anyone who reads this know that I am still chipping away at this piece, and think I may be finished with it in the next day or so.

I still want to deepen the shadows and heighten the contrast, hopefully to give the composition a nice “Edward Hopper” kind of pop.  I always gravitate to his watercolors because of their delightful use of contrast.

Thanks for reading.

Filling Stations from my Youthful Memories

February 21, 2012

Route 66 of Yesterday

A major grading deadline looms at midnight tonight.  Therefore, I have had little time to give to this latest watercolor today.  I spent some time building up the gravel textures along the shoulder of the highway, and darkening the shadows and enriching the wood textures along the siding of the service station.  That is all I have had time to pursue.  I hope I can return to the garage studio tonight to work further on this piece, but that will depend on the grading process.  So far, it is going quite slowly and painfully, as always.

I take delight in focusing on this setting for a watercolor.   Being a child of the fifties (recollections54.com), I look at a scene like this and recall the sounds of the bell cables the car rolled over as it pulled alongside the gas pumps.  On hot summer days, I recall my surprise seeing station attendants move so quickly and enthusiastically out from behind their oscillating fans to service our car–pump the gas, check the oil under the hood, check the tire pressures, wipe off the windshield and wipers, and take the $5 bill from my father’s hand.  One day when I asked Mom why Dad never asked for $10 worth of gas, she replied: “The tank won’t hold $10 worth.”  Gasoline choices back then were between regular and ethyl.  I recall the horror one day when Mom read the gas price on the front of the pump: 32 cents per gallon!

The memories are not fading quite as rapidly from my mental landscape as this physical structure is from our American landscape.  One thing I enjoy doing with watercolor is keeping these conversations and memories alive.  I miss route 66.  I miss full-service gas stations.  I miss those 1950’s automobiles.

Thanks for reading.

My Answer to Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”–an Abandoned Service Station in a Ghost Town

February 21, 2012

Abandoned Service Station in Robertsville, Missouri

During my three-day weekend, I chose to return to a composition I painted several years ago, titled “Cold Desolation”(https://davidtripp.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/a-frozen-moment-along-route-66-at-christmas/).  I had taken more than a dozen photos and processed them on 35mm Kodachrome slides a couple of decades ago.  The “Cold Desolation” painting was of this abandoned gas station from a frontal perspective.  Now I have chosen to paint it from this 45-degree angle, including the fuel tanks and the neighboring brick building, as well as trees backing the composition.  I also have chosen a full sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 30″), rather than the mid-sized “Cold Desolation” composition.  The original title was selected due to the weather being about 10 degrees when I photographed this site.

Robertsville, Missouri is the setting for this defunct service station.  Robertsville is defunct as well.  The town is south of historic route 66, west of St. Louis, in eastern Franklin County, just six miles southwest of the town of Pacific.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robertsville,_Missouri) I have photographed several abandoned structures from this town, but this service station is the only one I have managed to paint.  The winter light was better on these buildings than the ones facing across the street.

The three-day weekend was packed with plenty of obligations, but I found some space and temperate weather to retire to my garage studio and begin this painting after hours.  My “companions” for the most part were VHS documentaries on Willem deKooning and Paul Gauguin.  I enjoyed the communion as I thought of those great artists and their contributions, saddened that they are no longer among the living, though their immortal works will remain.  And the sighs of melancholy that I experienced as I thought back over past memories that grow faint over time had an effect on this painting’s process that probably I alone know intimately.

I was also tinged with the sad note of William Wordsworth and his “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey; On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.”  I recalled some of the words from this lyric poem on that winter morning when I encountered this “wild secluded scene” that impressed on me “thoughts of more deep seclusion” that connected “the landscape with the quiet of the sky.”  This particular holiday weekend offered a few spaces of quiet seclusion, and I accepted those gifts in sincere gratitude, particularly late Sunday and Monday evenings in the studio.  A part of me thinks that I could have been happier spending this day working in the garage studio, but on second thought, I doubt that.  I’ll accept those late night gifts, and look forward to the next time I find space to paint.

I’m going to close this post with the portion of the Wordsworth poem that touched me the most profoundly, and I felt were my own sentiments as I worked over this painting, and remembered that scene from the dead of winter:

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:–feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:–that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,–
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

On a separate note (one which probably has no connection to this post), I did manage some quality reading over the weekend, mostly from Immanuel Kant, of all people.  I have, throughout the years of my education, found this man’s thought a tough nut to crack.  But this weekend, a few fissures opened, and I finally caught a glimpse into some of his work that yielded some fine food for reflection.  I am most intrigued with his intellectual “Copernican Revolution” and its implications for thinking in the centuries since the 18th.  I may be posting some of those a little later, when they’ve had more time to mature.

Thanks for reading.  I have had no computer access for four days, and am most happy to be back at the blog, especially since I have a new painting emerging.

A Frozen Moment along Route 66 at Christmas

December 15, 2011

Cold Desolation

I was happy to receive 2nd place in the Desoto Arts League Annual Member Show with this entry.  I titled this “Cold Desolation” and painted it back in 2007.  I photographed it much, much earlier, over a Christmas holiday season back in the 1990’s.  My father was driving me around abandoned towns in Franklin County, Missouri so that I could shoot my 35mm camera for potential watercolor compositions.

It was about 10 degrees when we came across this abandoned filling station in Robertsville, Missouri, not far from Pacific.  I had to add the signage, as the building had been stripped of all identification and advertising.  The automobile was photographed in New Mexico, years later.  As to this site, I still recall how frigid cold it was, and how I had to keep putting my hands back into gloves to survive the photo shoot!  I stayed around long enough to shoot over thirty pictures, though some of them did not turn out the way I wished.

This painting has had a hard life.  After I had finished the sky, I leaned the watercolor against the wall of my study.  In those days, I was stretching D’Arches watercolor paper over canvas stretchers.  I love the dynamic spring of the paper while working on it, and the water dries much more quickly than it does with blocks or 300 pound weight.  While the picture was leaned against the wall, I pushed some books off my desk, and they tumbled across the floor and punctured this painting in several places.  For that reason, I have been unable to sell the original through galleries (though I’ve sold a number of limited edition giclees, and now the original has won two awards in competition, including a Best of Show.  It was also juried into the annual show of the Southwestern Watercolor Society.  Nevertheless, it remains a damaged painting, scotch-taped from the back.

I’m attached to this work because to-date it remains the best watercolor sky I have ever laid.  I still cannot believe how the colors worked and the blotted clouds emerged the way they did.  It also marks a former period when I worked only in neutral colors, mostly under the spell of Andrew Wyeth.  The creation of the work also evokes warm memories, as I worked on the sky in the winter months, then abandoned the work when the spring semester got under way.  The next thing I knew, several years had passed.  Finally, I decided to take it with me during a 3500-mile road trip one summer that took me through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.    It was during my Colorado fly-fishing expedition that the painting was completed, in Canon City.

I plan to re-visit this Robertsville, Missouri site in a couple of weeks when I return to St. Louis to visit my family for Christmas.  Currently, I have over twenty 35mm slides taken from all angles of this station, and I’m considering a fresh start on this composition again.  I think the time is overdue.  When Christmas comes, this is one of the few paintings from my past that I still own, and still spend plenty of time studying.  The painting will remain in Desoto City Hall until the first week of the New Year.  I”ll be looking forward to retrieving it and re-hanging it in my home.

Thanks for reading.

Another Route 66 Service Station Relic from a Dying America

March 3, 2011

Cold Desolation, Robertsville, Missouri

I have decided to post an older work now featured on my website (and the original is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).  A demanding school schedule has jerked me out of the studio for a minimum of two days, it appears, and I really wish to blog daily.  I’m having to work hard to make this possible.  Hopefully tomorrow I can return to my Spencer’s Grill painting and (maybe) finish it by the weekend.

My father has always taken an interest in my art work, even from my early childhood.  Once I launched Recollections 54, he was even more diligent in scouting for me these out-of-the way, forgotten towns that had once flourished throughout the fifties.  During one Christmas visit, he took me on some county roads west of St. Louis, adjacent to Route 66.  Stopping in Robertsville, I photographed this abandoned station from every possible angle.  It was about 10 degrees out, and snow was everywhere, and my 35mm camera lens was continually fogging up.  But I managed to get some decent photos, and put these images in the back of my mind’s eye to “compost” for a few years.

Of course, there were no signs left on this abused structure.  I added all of those, using props I’ve collected over the years.  The automobile was actually found alongside Route 66 in New Mexico, somewhere near Santa Rosa.  No such vehicles were to be seen on this property.

Once I finished the wintry, stormy sky and was ready to begin painting the building beneath, I had an accident in the studio.  Pushing a pile of books off my desk to clear room for an armload of “junk,” I hadn’t counted on the books bouncing along the floor and hitting this painting which was on the floor, propped against the wall.  I prefer to work on D’Arches paper, soaked in a shower and stapled on canvas stretchers, as though I were preparing a surface for oil or acrylic painting.  When dry, this surface is stretched tight as a drum skin, and delightful to work on with wet-on-wet watercolor.  Anyway, the books tore three holes in the painting.  My first reaction was to rip it off and throw it away, but it was the best sky I had ever painted!  So, I turned it over, scotch-taped the rips from behind, and proceeded onward with it.  I’m glad I did.  The painting won Best of Show in a competition the following year and a handsome check.

Something that attaches me to this painting is the reality that it was painted all over the Midwest, West and Southwest.  The summer that it was painted was a time when I decided to do a “Kerouac-style” road trip.  I loaded my Jeep and drove from Dallas/Fort Worth through SE Oklahoma, across Missouri and to St. Louis where I stayed awhile and visited with my family, painting on this from time to time.  Then I drove west to Kansas City, and onward to Denver.  From there I fly fished my way west to Kremmling, and then all the way down the Arkansas River, from its headwaters in Leadville, and on down through Buena Vista, Salida and Canon City.  Then it was on to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally back home to Arlington, Texas.  I finished this watercolor in Canon City, Colorado, but enjoyed thoroughly working on it in St. Louis, Kremmling and Leadville as well.  All of this is to say–I saw much of this kind of “abandoned town” setting throughout my lengthy road-trip excursion that summer, and all of those sights fed this painting.

Incidentally, I had another “accident” in my garage studio day before yesterday–my French easel collapsed (a small piece of wood with 2 screws tore loose on the back leg) and crashed to the floor with “Spencer’s Grill” on it.  The result is two holes in this painting, now.  Anyway, I scotch-taped those from the back as well, and hope this will be alright.  I like the painting too much to throw it away.

Thanks for reading.