Posts Tagged ‘Perkins’

Party Lights

I’m getting things around this morning for a gallery-type talk that I’m doing today for a group at a Christmas party at a local country club.  It’s a little different from gallery talks I’ve done in the past where the people in attendance are there specifically to hear me speak and I’m surrounded by examples of my work .  These folks are there to celebrate the holidays so I’m just a bit nervous about how well I will be able to grab their attention.

But I will certainly give it a try.

I will mainly focus on the story of how I came to be a painter rather than how I paint, leaving technique for other venues.  I figure this will be more biographical, trying to emphasize some of the elements that have a bit of inspiration.  I will probably talk  a little about attitude and serendipity, stemming from some great opportunities for my career that arose from my days as a waiter at a Perkins Restaurant.  I don’t really have a speech or anything like that.  I usually just get up and start talking and let it go, hoping that it will grow organically like one of my paintings.  Most of the time this works.

I hope it does today.

I wonder if they’ll have an open bar?

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The Illustrated Man

Tattoo Art?When I was a kid I thought it would be pretty cool to have a tattoo.  A couple of my uncles had tattoos, a naked lady and a black panther among them, and I was always kind of fascinated by them.  They were older tats and kind of blotty in areas, the lines starting to break apart a bit.  But I still thought they were sort of cool.

When we moved in 1972 and I started junior high school in Elmira, a more urban setting than I had come from, I was exposed for the first time to the homemade tattoos that some of the rougher kids wore.  They were made by taking a pin or needle , wrapping it with thread and dipping it ink.  The thread would absorb the ink and would would deposit it under the skin as they poked their designs with the needle.  They were pretty crude.  A lot of crooked initials and “Mom”‘s . “LOVE ” and “HATE” on the knuckles- that kind of thing.  I was still fascinated but more in a “why the hell would you do that?” sort of way.

Years passed and I found myself working at Perkins Restaurant as a waiter.  When I first started I worked the overnight shifts, which were, for the most part, the province of the drunk and  alienated.  There were a lot of young adults who would come in and sit for hours, drinking coffee and smoking ( you could do that still) with no place else to go.  I came to know several of them and they liked me because I treated them well and listened to what they had to say. 

There was one guy who wanted to be a tattoo artist.  Tattoos were gaining popularity and you were starting to see them more and more.  He had bought some equipment and was practicing on himself.  He would come in and pull up his pant leg, showing me his calf.  It was covered in scrawls of unsure lines and letters and shapes.  It was awful, reminding me of the homemade tats from junior high.  I asked if there wasn’t a better way to practice, maybe an orange or something?  He said there was nothing like using the real thing.  

Over the years, I have seen some great tattoos and am always amazed that these people are so sure of who they are now and who they will be in the future.  As I’ve aged my view of the world is always changing, evolving with new knowledge and insights.  I would hate to have an emblem of who I was at age 18 emblazoned on my body for all to see.  It would be like being doomed to wearing a KISS ARMY t-shirt for eternity.

Tattoos have always been viewed as symbols of individualism, something that sets one apart from the crowd.  But as they become more and more popular, I’ve started to view them more as symbols of conformity.  It’s become so common that there I find myself less and less fascinated when I see one.  I still appreciate a well done tattoo that is composed well and executed with great care and really says something about its owner but I get a feeling from so many of them that it simply means that they are part of the crowd.  Almost as though they are being used to make the wearer blend in rather than stand out.  

So, I don’t have any tattoos and will never do so.  It would feel too much like conforming…

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InterloperI’m showing an older piece today, one from around 1996 , called Interloper, mainly because I have mentioned the Kada Gallery over the last few days and am reminded of how I came to show with them quite a few years back.  There was a bit of serendipity involved.

It was in  late summer of 1995 and I had been showing at the West End Gallery for several months which was my first experience exhibiting in public.  I was still waiting tables at the local Perkins Family Restaurant full-time, working on building our house and painting every other available minute.  Man, I had a lot more energy then!  I still had no idea that I would or could have a real career as a painter.  My work at that time was very small in size for the most part and was just starting to gain some notice locally but I really didn’t know if it would ever transfer outside our local area.

One Saturday morning, I was at my job waiting tables when a family with a daughter about 10 or 11 years old sat in my station.  They were very nice, smiling and talkative.  Typical chit-chat.  I took their order and that was that.  After a bit, as they were eating I was going through my station checking on each party and I stopped at their table.

The daughter, Hillary,  asked, “Are you a painter?”

I was a little taken aback by the question.  Nothing was said about painting or art, to them or any of my other tables and that was the last thing on my mind at the moment.

“Well, yeah. I am.”

“My mother said you were.  She said that anyone that happy doing their job had to be a painter.”

I just stood there with nothing to say.  How do you respond to that?

It turned out that the mother was a painter as well who lived, for the time being, in our area.  Her name was Suzi Druley and she was on their way out to a gallery that sold a lot of her work in Erie, Pennsylvania.  They had me run out to their vehicle to take a look at her work, which was very interesting, particularly for our area.  It had a sort of Southwestern/Native American feel with with vivid, deep colors and a lot of symbology.  Turns out she was from Texas originally and they had moved here for a job her husband had taken.  She asked what my work was like, saying she would like to see it.

A few weeks passed and I decided to take her up on her offer and went out to their home.  I took photos and some pieces and she really seemed excited by the work.  She said I should show the work to Kathy at the Kada, that she would really like it.

Long story short, she called Kathy and a visit was arranged.  I hauled my bits of paint and paper out there and I’ve been showing with them for going on 14 years.

I’m glad I was in a good mood that Saturday morning at Perkins- I most certainly would not have found made my way to the Kada Gallery without Suzi’s simple observation that I must be a painter.


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The ServantThis is a little exercise that I did when I was first painting and still working as a waiter at a Perkins restaurant.  I call it The Servant and it sort of sums up my time as a waiter, except for the fact that  I never wore tails when serving pancakes.  It was a great learning experience however.  I think everyone should wait tables for a while.  Teaches humility.  

I remember going to some openings and being praised for the work.  “Oh, this is so wonderful” this and  “You’re doing great stuff” that to the point my head barely fit in my car to drive home.  Then the next morning I was pouring coffee for a factory worker or a trucker and I would realize that for most people my so-called triumph was an absolute nothing.  Didn’t matter and never would.  

My head returned quickly to its normal size and would resume my duties as a server, all the time whistling and humming tunes in my head to pass the time.  Here’s one from Lyle Lovett that was a favorite back then and still is.

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