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.