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.