Posts Tagged ‘Wordsworth’

Ruminations During a Three-Day Holiday Respite

September 4, 2016

archaic

I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves. Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

All good poetry is the overflow of powerful feelings . . . The imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

The first key to writing is to write, not to think. . . . You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.

Sean Connery, Finding Forrester

I awoke this morning to my blog alerting me that thirteen days have passed since my last post. That was not intentional, though unplugging for a season has its rewards, so argues William Powers in his excellent book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. 

Two weeks of high school are now in the books, and the three-day holiday weekend respite has been delicious so far. From the moment I walked out of the school Friday afternoon, my mind has been seething with memories of the past two weeks of classes–all of them invigorating. In the philosophy and art history classes, I’ve been employing Nietzsche’s model of Apollo vs. Dionysus, which he set forth in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy. In this work he argues that the creative life is a constant struggle between the forces of Apollo (order, structure, reason) and Dionysus (chaos, spontaneity, passion). As an artist I have grown to appreciate that attempt for balance over the years. I have posted quotes above from Nietzsche’s novel as well as Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and the excellent lines from the motion picture Finding Forrester. All creative attempts embody a shaky counterbalance of order and spontaneity, and I for one like to lead out with my passion, then let reason clean it up subsequently.

For the past several days, I have experienced a series of delightful explosions in my philosophy and art history classes as we have explored the thought and creations of the ancient Greeks. I have studied this material throughout most of my life, and believed I had it organized in a logical (boring) way in the form of “lesson plans”. But the students’ questions and my serious responses never follow the lesson plans, and I find that delightful, always. And I’m confident that many of the students do as well.  After all, the questions are theirs. Nevertheless, there remain those students who prefer to have everything laid out in logical order so they can study their material, write their essays properly (boring) and take their tests (boring) and see their scores (which to me are always imperfect indicators of their excellence in thinking). My sentiments are about as subtle as a freight train, yes?

So . . . I am using this three-day holiday to clean up my lesson plans and present a more orderly package next week. Meanwhile I will continue to explore this Apollo/Dionysus balance. I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, a very sobering and deeply gratifying experience in thoughtful reading. My favorite character is Ada, a crippled teenager with deep thoughts, who experienced healing later in life.  Her creed was expressed as follows:

Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to find out.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Catholic Contemplation

February 6, 2016

windhorst watercolor

Yesterday, while on the road, I had to pull over and photograph this magnificent St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Windthorst, eleven miles from Archer City. I had admired the structure for over ten years, but never found it in such beautiful light as the western sun on this day.

With the temperatures outside at 38 degrees and overcast, I thought it best to work in the Spur Hotel lobby (I’m the only resident in the hotel this weekend), relying on the photo from yesterday. Here is my quick sketch, and I’ll probably enrich the colors and details after I get it back home to the studio. There are many more trees to fill out on the sides of the church.

I don’t know how to record my feelings yesterday as I stood beneath this church which stands on the highest point of Windthorst. It was bathed in the winter sunlight and some kind of emotion came over me as I viewed it. I cannot say Wordsworthian, because I was looking at architecture rather than nature, and I cannot say Tintern Abbey, because this is not an abandoned wreck of a church, but a viable facility that serves Catholic needs across Archer County. I was not brought up in the Catholic faith, but I have studied theology and church history for most of my life, and I just felt like many streams of thoughts were coming together in the warmest way possible. I felt affirmed. And today I feel even more so, as I look at this composition and attempt to render it in watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

Springtime Wanderlust

February 24, 2012

One Last Road Trip

It just occurred to me this morning, while driving to school in the pre-dawn, that Spring Break is two weeks away.  It couldn’t be more timely, for me.  That is a week on the school calendar that always whispers “road trip” in my ear.  Fantasies of plein air painting, fly fishing, reading stacks of books, journaling and blogging flood my soul (as well as sleeping in!).

Since I just posted a completed painting of a defunct gas station, I thought it apropos to post this Spring Break painting from 2006.  I had gone with friends to fly fish the White River in northern Arkansas, then traveled to visit a retired principal/friend in Bentonville, and then, in a surprise twist, journeyed into Oklahoma to re-visit a town where a member of my traveling party had grown up as a child.  She said she “wanted to do the Proust thing,” an idea that had to be explained to me, and now remains with me forever.

French novelist Marcel Proust spoke of how certain moments stir our senses to recall primal memories from our early childhood that are profoundly warm and worth recalling.  Yet, any attempt to seize those moments will lead immediately to their dissolution.  They are gifts, and they only remain a moment, often surprising us with what the painter Robert Motherwell called the “shock of recognition” and then vanishing.  But the warmth remains.  I had known this experience throughout my life, and always cherished such gifts, but not until my friend introduced me to Proust did I have a way of describing it.  Incidentally, my friend on that day re-visited her childhood town, and in the end concluded that “Nothing happened.”  Sometimes it is that way.  We cannot make it happen.  We don’t always know Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” sentiments.

This painting is virtually all that is left of Binger, Oklahoma–two buildings at a crossroads.  When we travelled Oklahoma, we were seized by the sight of these buildings and thought they possessed a certain “Edward Hopper” isolation.  So we took a number of photos and I later worked this into a composition.  In fact, I have included this gas station in three of my paintings (the other two can be found on my website: http://recollections54.com).

The 1924 Oldsmobile (what is left of it) is parked behind a restored auto showroom in Hillsboro, Texas, on E. Elm Street.  I thought this abandoned filling station needed an abandoned car for a companion.  Overall, I was happy with the composition, though no one has yet purchased the original watercolor.  I have managed to sell a good number of limited edition giclee prints of it, however, and dozens of greeting cards.

This is the time of year that I am bitten by the Jack Kerouac On the Road sentiment.  Fantasies of Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas flood my being, and I begin looking at the calendar, contemplating the nine days and wondering if I can pull one off this year.  I always look to that time as one of restoration, decompression and retooling (and recovering some sleep!).  Whatever happens, my priority is to create at least one decent watercolor, hopefully en plein air.

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.

Ozark Court on Historic Route 66

December 14, 2011

Ozark Court on HIstoric Route 66

This watercolor was a quick-study of a scene I have returned to for nearly three decades.  I blocked in the sky as a demonstration for a student several weeks ago.  Finding this discarded study recently, I decided to put a landscape under the sky, and had been musing over an 8 x 10″ photo I took of this Ozark Court hotel on historic route 66.

This abandoned hotel site has been a sad scene for me during the years I have traveled back and forth between Fort Worth and St. Louis.  I have watched its decay throughout the decades, and now I am sad to report that the sign has even been removed.  I never recall seeing this business open during my travels, but the sign was always a reference point for me, and of course the nostalgic memories of highway motels always stirred my imagination.  This setting was always a welcoming sight for me, particularly when I felt weary and lonely from travel.

I was always touched by the lines from William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.”  The shell of that Medieval church stirred him in ways similar to how I feel when I travel and look upon ruins such as this–a reminder of yesterdays that will not be returning.  I miss many of these business establishments and their collective histories.

In a couple of weeks, I will be journeying past this lonely spot along Interstate 44 yet again, and no doubt will feel a tug when I drive past this pair of buildings marking what used to be a warm, welcoming spot.

Thanks for reading.

 

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, Loss and Presence

April 23, 2011

Sketches in the Studio

1887 relic of 4th Methodist Church Fort Worth, Texas

Today, Friday morning, April 22, 2011 begins a 3-day weekend for me.  While in classes yesterday morning, I suddenly was seized with this notion to visit this relic from the edge of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  It is what remains of the 1887 Fourth Street Methodist Church (today First Methodist Church, in a different location).  The ruins were discovered a few years back when demolition began of a storage facility, with no knowledge that the skeletal remains of this vestry were within the old structure.  The Bass brothers decided not to destroy the relic.

For the past two weeks (is this serendipitous?) I have been mulling over William Wordsworth’s “Lines.  Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour.  July 13, 1798.”  I have also lingered over a watercolor by J. M. W. Turner, composed while the painter was quite young and visiting that same Medieval ruin of a church.  The poem and the painting have been on my mind the past few weeks, again with all those Proustian notions–of memories, of loss and of presence.

Other writers have expressed this better than I, but I know these heart-shuddering sentiments of standing in the midst of something left over from the past, with the wreckage of decomposition prevalent, and I simultaneously feel a profound loss and an exhilarating “presence.”  This is what I feel when I look on this church ruin adjacent to a thriving Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas.  At the close of the 19th century, worshipers, mourners, seekers–people of all persuasions–lingered on these grounds and worshiped within the sacred space.  I tried to focus on those matters while the traffic of downtown Fort Worth whizzed past me.  One memorable moment during this 30-minute sketching exercise was a courteous bicycle security guard working for the city stopping by and chatting with me for a few minutes.  Her presence, and the knowledge that there were “many of them” about the town, made me feel safer to return here and sketch again.  Indeed I shall.

Thank you for reading.  It is now Saturday, and I hope to get some quality work done in watercolor by the close of this day.