Sunday, May 19, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Saturday, July 22 1961

The further adventures of the Smith family, seen through the eyes of patriarch Wendell. The summer of 1961 continues. In this entry, my father sets up his paintings at a local art show in Eastham and  discovers how hard it is to actually get the general public to buy artwork. He meets artist Larry Edwardson and learns about how he became a painter and his process. [Again, I'm transcribing my Dad's pages of longhand writing. Tune in next time for more scans.]

Yesterday I “hung” eight, nine of my paintings in the second outdoor showing of the Nauset Painters, a group of local amateurs, mostly women, who paint boats, beaches, and cottages about as most amateurs paint boats, beaches, and cottages. The exhibit was being held in Eastham on the Green by the old Grist Mill. I arrived with 7 oil wash sketches and one still-life in oil (entitled Still-Life). At the first show on the Orleans Green, check wire fencing had been erected and the Nauset Painters did the hanging for the hoped-for 20% of sale price if anyone bought.

I pulled into the Eastham Green and found painters were staking out claims for space along the split rail fence that boarded the Green. I was told that no other support would be provided. You can’t set matted paintings against a fence (but) you can a framed oil. Luckily, I had a length of rope in the VW and a little grocery store near the Green had clothes pins in stock.

So I rushed back to the Green and stretched my rope along a goodly length of fence beneath a skimpy locust that held some promise of shade later in the day. To my left along the fence I shared spectators with one old Grandma Moses whose husband helped her set up her three cottages. But they were fairly good cottages and drew more favorable comments than my paintings, with local viewers at least.

It was a game to guess whose cottages they were and where they were located. “That looks to the Mayo’s on Tonset Road.” “Looks’ more like that little three-quarter sitting back off Barley Neck just beyond Mabel’s house.” And so it went.

After securing my paintings I took the tour around the 30 yards or so of split rail fence then left the exhibit until after lunch. My paintings were just as I had them. None had sold. Perhaps if I had stayed with the pictures I might have pushed through a sale or two. But I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the heat and shade chatting with the one really serious artist on the field, a Larry Edwardson of New Britain, Conn. He was a man well into his fifties who had worked on newspapers, radio, and for some years had his own advertising agency in New Britain. A few years ago he set January as his target date for self-support by painting alone. Already a good artist, (he was) a member of (the) Salmagundi Club in New York but not too widely exhibited.

He severed his relations, accounts, and began to paint. Within a matter of days he was bedridden with infectious hepatitis and it was eight months before he was able to paint productively. For what I gathered, Edwardson is able to make expenses and keep painting. He has a trailer which allows him to live cheaply, north in the summer and south in the winter. The Cape, Gloucester, Maine, Connecticut, New Orleans, and Sarasota (places he mentioned). It’s his hope to get his paintings placed in a dozen galleries and then spend a month painting local scenes in each place.

Edwardson works almost entirely with palette knife and he has a special set made up from putty knives, filed down to various points and widths. He showed me his paint box. “It was handmade in Italy. A friend bought it for me. And I use a disposable palette. I always start clean each morning.” The artist opened the box with pride for unlike my own it showed signs of long and hard use. The wood was browned with age and weather and the tubes of oil paint spoke of having become part of many paintings.

“This turpentine,” he said, “is just to clean up with. I lay the paint on fresh, no turpentine or oil, with the knives. Why, I’ve gotten so I can make a circle with a knife, just like that.” He flicked his wrist. “I hold a towel in my left hand and wipe off the knives as I use them. So I’m always working clean. I had intended on finishing those two pictures.” He pointed to two Masonite boards with half-finished scenes on them. “But I don’t want to attract a big crowd, get people standing. This isn’t the kind of exhibit for that. If these were real artists, practicing painters, I might. It’s a tough business, boy. If it means selling a painting, most artists would step right in front of your paintings to show their own.”

That must have been my trouble at the Eastham show. I was too modest and nothing sold.

4 comments:

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thank you for another peek into our father's past.
I can so picture him at that artists show. Wandering around instead of actually trying to push his work on any potential buyers. :)
We miss you, Dad!!!

Robin said...

I love this glimpse of our book dealer dad in his early years as a struggling artist! Thanks for sharing.

Liz's Mom said...

Your father's unpretentious style, as a writer and as an artist, is charming. He found the most interesting person at a rather dull art show,and engaged him in conversation. He puts in great details, the rope, the clothespins, the remarks by the spectators.

Charles Flint said...

It's always good to know our ancestors success story. Their life stories give us new hope of living. They work hard for making a better leaving place for us. We always salute them for the bottom of our heart. Thanks for nice posting………

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