Posts Tagged ‘Thornton Wilder’

Nostalgic Tugs

February 23, 2016

Our Town

Nice town, y’know what I mean?

Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.

Stage Manager speaking of Grover’s Corners in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Laying aside the odious task of grading and compiling figures over the past several days, the acts of drawing, watercoloring, reading, thinking, conversing with dear friends and journaling my thoughts have emerged with more sweetness than ever before, it seems.

Back in 2009, I embarked on a long road trip that took me down many memorable paths, one of them being Highway 79 in Missouri. I passed through Winfield just as the sun came up, and paused to photograph this magnificent facade of a building bathed in that warm summer light. Now, in 2016, I am drawn back to this subject, because a former resident has found me online and shared some fascinating stories of its history and her own experiences growing up in it.

I am posting the Thornton Wilder quote, because I feel that that is the common sentiment of people assessing the significance of their own small towns, as well as the sentiment of the outsiders looking in. Personally, I have no interest in fame embracing any Winfield residents; I am just enriched when I hear the stories that are so real and worth recalling. The stories echo the sweetness of what I knew in my own small towns throughout the years of my youth.

As this picture develops, and others of the same subject along with it, I plan to pass on some of the stories handed to me about this quaint Mississippi River town that reminds me so much of the small towns I knew in southeast Missouri when I visited relatives during the years of my growing up.

Thanks for reading.

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Our Town

July 5, 2014

I am not an innovator but a rediscoverer of forgotten goods and I hope a remover of obtrusive bric-a-brac.

Thornton Wilder

On the third of July, I inadvertently picked up a copy of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and began reading.  By the time I was on the third page of the play, I had forgotten the fortuitous nature of my picking up the book.  I have such deep feelings as I read this play over the Fourth of July holiday.  I have never considered myself patriotic, but I have always had a warm place in my heart for small-town America.  I grew up in High Ridge, a highway town southwest of St. Louis that never possessed its own significance, like Nazareth to Jerusalem.   And throughout my pilgrimage on this earth, I lived frequently in small towns–Queen City, Missouri and Ponder, Texas.  Though I now live in the largest city in the U. S. without mass transit (they are proud of that), my creative aspirations still go back to the small towns where I lived out significant years in my life.

The watercolor I have posted was completed in 1999 and titled “Turvey’s Corner” (no such place).  It was to be the first of a series called “My Town, 63050.”  The zip code is fictitious, lying between the zip codes of High Ridge (63049) and House Springs, four miles down Highway 30 (63051).  I had this notion that I would create an environment for stories and paintings.  Garrison Keillor has his Lake Wobegon, Sherwood Anderson had his Winesburg and Thornton Wilder his Grover’s Corners.  I had planned on a series of watercolors and short stories.  I abandoned the project after about six paintings (because all six sold rather quickly), and living in the predigital age, I could no longer look at the collection before me (currently I have lifted the images of them from 35mm Kodachrome slides I made with my film camera before selling).  From time to time, I think about returning to the series and creating more paintings of this fictitious town and stories of its citizens.  I believe it to be a good idea, only requiring a dedicated creator to birth the images and stories.

I am thankful for the gift Thornton Wilder left us, and my heart is warmed by reading this play once again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

My Town 63050 (Switzer’s Licorice St. Louis)

September 21, 2012

Switzer’s Licorice, St. Louis

If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll know that I have toyed with reviving a project I abandoned about a year ago–a series of watercolors titled “My Town 63050.”  My inspiration came from Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Garrison Keillor and any other brilliant mind who created their own fictitious town and grew wonderful stories about them.  I once thought I would do the same with watercolor.  Yesterday evening, I began a small watercolor sketch of the old Switzer’s Licorice building on the St. Louis riverfront that has since been demolished.  I grew up looking at that lone sentinel of a building sitting north of the gateway arch, above the Mississippi River.  I figured it was time to re-do a painting of it.  Formerly it had stood in the background of a 1999 watercolor I had titled “Turvey’s Corner.”  I look forward to finishing this and matting it to put in my booth next week when I attend Taste of St. Louis art festival.

Thanks for reading.

Evening Plein Air Watercolor Start on a Eureka Springs Church

June 12, 2011

Eureka Springs Church

This morning, my wife and I rose at 5:00 to make the four-hour drive to Little Rock so she could catch a flight back to Texas.  She begins teaching summer school in the morning, and I begin my one-week class here in the morning as well.  The return to Eureka Springs capped eight hours of driving, and I felt it.  However, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts has provided me with a place to stay this week, and when I moved in this evening, I could not believe my eyes!  I’m in a luxurious space, and feel so unworthy!  All I could hear were the dying words of Tom Hanks to Private Ryan: “Earn this.”  (Incidentally I did not care for the movie, but always remembered that “hook”).  And so, with “Earn this!” on my conscience, I hastily unpacked my gear in this beautiful dwelling, then headed out into the surrounding neighborhood at 6:00 p.m. to paint something, anything.  I just felt I needed to “earn this!”

The sun was setting on this beautiful church, about a block from where I will be residing.  I only had 45 minutes of light with which to work, so this is as far as I could go.  I believe I will set it out as a sample for my plein air students in the morning, showing them how I begin an on-site work.  Then, when 6:00 p.m. rolls back around, I’ll return to the site, and hopefully complete it.  I begin with four students tomorrow.  We’ll practice plein air watercolor for five days, 9:00-4:00.  I’ve waited a year for this, and can hardly believe that the inauguration of this experience is just hours away now.

About this start to the church painting–I was much more fascinated with the beautiful sunset colors filling the trees and foliage to the right of the church, than the actual church structure, although I look forward to (trying) to solve the problem of the rusticated exterior.  I love such cut-stone buildings and their Roman predecessors.  Finally I get to attempt a watercolor of one.  Hopefully I’ll render the stop sign and street signs with enough detail that they emerge from the overwhelming, colorful foliage.  I also love the slant of the street downward, much like what I saw with that Victorian cottage bathed in yellow that I attempted a few days ago (posted).

Thank you for reading.  Wish my class (and me) good luck tomorrow as we begin this week.

Winfield Antiqure Store Finished and Delivered to the Gallery

May 8, 2011

Winfield Antique Store, Highway 79, Missouri

This painting has just been delivered to the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery for framing (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).

It got hot, painting in the garage this afternoon, but I’m glad this job is finished.  The painting has been posted so many times on this blog that I think it best not to repeat myself.  If you would like to know the story behind this setting, please check the other Winfield blogs over the past few weeks.  Thanks to all of you who checked in on this painting daily to help “see it through”!

Thanks for reading.

A Shout Out to the little town of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois!

March 10, 2011

Turvey's Corner

I am posting a watercolor that I completed in 1999, the first completed watercolor from my intensified quest to become a “professional” watercolorist, rather than a novice or Sunday Painter type.  The actual setting is a composite of three places I had visited throughout my life.  The Switzer building I always knew from downtown St. Louis, near where I grew up (sadly that building/landmark  has since been torn down).  The buildings on the left margin came from New Bern, North Carolina, a town I visited only one time in the mid-1990’s, and actually used the interior of a coffee shop there (the Trent River Coffee Company) to compose a mural at Arlington Martin High School (that mural can be viewed under the “Murals” tab of my website http://www.recollections54.com).

The building on the right, with the Budweiser and Busch ghost signs, I only knew as coming from a town in Illinois.  I scoured a number of those towns very early in the 1990’s with my father, but did not take good notes in my journal.  Since 1999, I have been unable to tell people specifically where I found that striking building to anchor the right side of this composition.

All of that changed at Open House last Monday night.  Parents of one of my A. P. Art History students were visiting with me, and as we shared our backgrounds, it was established that the father had grown up in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, near  Fort de Chartes.  I recognized those names immediately as two of the places I had scouted with my father during that summer excursion in the early ’90s.  I told this gentleman about my painting titled “Turvey’s Corner,”  explaining that one of the buildings came from a small Illinois town in his general area.  Today I received the surprise email from him, informing me that he had looked up my painting on the website and immediately recognized this “phantom” building as Lisa’s Market Street Grille in downtown Prairie du Rocher!

How thrilling to meet someone who connected with one of these small towns far, far away that connected with me in my travels!  Having an identity now for that building means everything to me, as I now can tell people more about the painting and what generated the idea for it.  I am adding the Facebook link to Lisa’s Market Street Grille, encouraging any of you interested to check out this business.  I was a patron there when I took my photographs of the establishment with my 35mm camera long ago, and still have fond memories of the place.  How happy I am to re-discover the business, and I cannot wait to return some day.   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisas-Market-Street-Grille/274360247861

Thank you, Mike and Karen, for providing this information for me.

And thanks to all of you for reading.

 

Summer Morning Odyssey along Missouri Highway 79

March 7, 2011

Sun Rising on Winfield, Missouri

I have completely re-written my opening blog page “Hello and thanks for entering my blog.”  That was long overdue.

I posted yesterday that it seemed unlikely that I would get into the studio today.  I have high school all day, and Open House tonight.  However, I got an early start on this day, and it now seems possible that I could get in some studio work this afternoon during the interim.  If I do, I’ll certainly post my progress.

Meanwhile here is a piece I have at the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).  I came across this location during a 2009 summer odyssey I took from my home town of St. Louis, north up Highway 79 en route to my college alma mater.  The location is Winfield, Missouri–a sleepy little Mississippi River town.  The sun was just rising over the Mississippi when I came across this abandoned store front–to me the most perfect setting for a watercolor study.  I photographed it at least twenty times from every conceivable angle, totally delighted at the warm early light of the sun and the cool shadows dancing everywhere.  The bright reds made me think of Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning. I have painted this store a second time–the other from a frontal perspective like Hopper’s painting just mentioned.  Very soon, I hope to return to this and capture it from yet another angle.  I wish there were more structures like this in our small towns.  It seems they have all been cleared away and replaced with Seven-Eleven or comparable stores.

Thanks for reading.

Return to the Silver Dollar Tavern, November 7, 2010

November 7, 2010

Silver Dollar Tavern

With a gallery opening this coming weekend, and another art festival running at the same time, I’m in a pinch to finish some paintings.  This one I abandoned a few months back.  Earlier photos of it have already been posted on the blog.  I am the guitar player–a friend photographed me playing at an art festival several years back.  The GMC pickup is from an abandoned site somewhere in New Mexico (I remember the summer but not the town).  The abandoned tavern is in Old Appleton, Missouri, alongside old Highway 61, north of Cape Girardeau.  My father frequented this joint when he was a young adult.  He recalls that the bar was on the ground floor, and the dance floor on the second story.  I haven’t visited the site since about the year 2000, and it was in bad shape.  I fear that I will return one day to find it gone, like so many other derelict character-laden structures I have painted over the years.

Thanks for reading.

Wrapping up the East Texas Plein Air, June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

Edgewood TexasAs Gaylord O’Con and I headed back toward Dallas, following a sweaty morning of painting in Grand Saline, we discovered this delightful Heritage Park in the small town of Edgewood.  We found Mary Henson on the grounds, who welcomed us to explore the artifacts and make watercolor sketches of what interested us.  She was filled with fabulous stories and facts, displaying her passion for research into the history of these small east Texas towns.  I was fascinated with this beautiful preserved gas station complete with vintage pumps.  The heat was oppressive, but the shade trees offered plenty of protection, and the occasional breeze kept us going.  I’m glad we stopped here, and look forward to returning to this site.  There is also a fabulous train station, reefer car and Union Pacific caboose nearby.

Painting outside in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, June 14, 2010

June 14, 2010

Eureka Springs Victorian House

This is a rough watercolor sketch en plein air that I created while the students at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts watched.  The heart of it was done in 45 minutes.  The embellishments were added as the day continued to unfold and the students busied themselves in their own paintings of the same subject.  When I have more time, I will record the riches that I gleaned from working with these students–seven in all, and every last one of them focused and driven to study plein air techniques and explore new methods of watercoloring.  I wish I could have spent a month with them, they were that stimulating.

This particular structure is found on Spring Street in the historic section of Eureka Springs.  The owner of the establishment was a real treasure, offering my class full use of her facilities (dining, air conditioning, restrooms, etc.).  She made all the difference in the world, as we were working under an extreme humidity factor for two days at this location.