I grew up in Greenhills, Ohio one of three greenbult communities built be the government during the 1930. A suburb of Cincinnati, Greenhills had a small town feel with the advantages of a big city nearby. My parents were both barbers and I began Barber College the summer between the 7th & 8th grade attending during my summer vacations until I obtained my barbers license prior to my senior year of high school. I started working in my parents barbershops right away and continued to work in several barbershops in and around Cincinnati during summer vacations until I graduated from college.
I was a basketball player in high school and college and never even considered painting anything except maybe my dorm room. I graduated from Rio Grande College (in Southeastern Ohio) in December of 1972, joined the USAF, and took off for basic training in San Antonio, Texas. After four years in the USAF stationed in southern California I returned to Ohio and took a job with Ohio State University at the Lima Campus. During my 5-year stint at OSU Lima, I served as the Athletic Director and coached men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and golf. Following my stay at OSU Lima I moved on to Navajo Community College in Arizona where I taught Health & Physical Education, coached woman’s volleyball and served as the assistant coach for both the men’s and woman’s basketball team.
My wife Barbara and I returned to Ohio in 1989 and lived in both Columbus and Cincinnati for the next few years. In the fall of 1989 I was channel surfing one Saturday morning and came across Bill Alexander on the local PBS station. I called my wife to come look at what he was doing and although she seemed unimpressed at the time, she got me a Bill Alexander starter set for Christmas that year. I took the set to the basement along with the instructions to do a Bill Alexander painting and after about two weeks of painting and scraping and repainting and scraping again then painting again I managed to produce the most dreadful image ever to appear on canvas. Some day I’m going to get out those instructions and try that painting again. I think my mother may have been the only person capable of actually saying with a straight face that she liked it. Thank God for mothers.
Although my first painting experience was less than a rousing success, I was hooked. I spent a lot of time in the basement with the paint and brushes learning a little more each day. The very first and perhaps most important thing I learned was that God didn’t give me much talent but He sure blessed me with a ton of persistence. There were times when I’d go down to the basement on Saturday morning with my paint, my brushes and a few canvases emerging again at 1 or 2 in the morning covered with paint and smelling of thinner.
With the instructions for a Bill Alexander painting in hand, I would head off to the basement and attempt to reproduce Bill’s painting. When I wasn’t happy with the outcome, I’d scrape the paint off the canvas, wipe it down with thinner, and set it aside to dry then get a fresh canvas and start over again. I discovered that repeated cleaning of a canvas in this manner could actually remove the tooth from a medium texture canvas. However, each attempt at a finished painting was a valuable learning experience and eventually I begin to see some improvement.
Although being self-taught and learning by trial and error can be painfully slow it was for me the best approach. I considered taking a Bob Ross class at the local hobby shop but then I realized that they were just teaching people how to do a Bob Ross painting. I wanted to learn how to paint, I didn’t want learn how to do someone else’s painting. In my basement, I could focus on learning the technique, rather than what an instructor wanted me to paint during that session. Over time, I began to do a few paintings I though might be worth keeping and after a few years, I realized I was keeping more and more paintings.
Eventually I had so many paintings lying around the house my wife told me I’d have to do something with them. Having run out of close friends and relatives to give them to I loaded up a bunch of paintings and headed off to the local flea market. I was amazed that a few people actually seemed to like some of my paintings. I’ve always been of the opinion that “if I can do it, it ain’t art.” However, here were people actually willing to give money for something I had done. On my second trip to the flea market, I sold my first painting for $25.00. To this day, I continue to be maybe not amazed but certainly astonished every time someone offers me money for something I created.
I no longer take paintings to the flea market but I do take my paintings to Art & Craft shows in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. I sell a few from time to time and I generally get a little more than $25.00 for them now days. I had a lady tell me I wasn’t charging enough for my paintings… while she was writing me a check for the painting she just purchased. Go figure. For the most part I paint for me and if someone is willing to give me $85 or $100 dollars for one of them that’s great because I was probably going to do the painting anyway.
I have always painted places I’d like to be and I think that’s why I end with more mountains and streams than beaches, cityscapes, and still-lifes. I have traveled a lot and when I set down to paint, I think places I’ve been sort of seep into whatever painting I’m working on. So even though the place I’m painting may exist only in my head it sometimes feels like a real place to the person seeing the finished canvas.
About 15 years ago, we moved to Batesville, Indiana and opened the Brush & Palette Frame Shop and I have an area in the shop where I can piddle with the paintbrush when I don’t have framing to do. So for me work is a “Catch 22” when I’m busy with framing I don’t have time to paint (which I enjoy), and when I have time to paint I’m not making any money (which I need) because I’m not selling frames. I could of course solve this dilemma if only I could convince my wife to take a second job so I could retire and just paint.
A couple of years ago my wife, (who by the way is far better to me that I deserve) got me a really good camera for Christmas and I’m beginning to dabble with photography. Lately I’ve been selling more and more of my photographs at the shows and recently had one printed on canvas for one my customers at the shop. I enjoy photography but I’ve discovered the camera is quite possible smarter than I am. I have recently started trying to create paintings from some of my favorite photographs so it looks like I’m about to start a whole new learning curve.
Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Robert Warren (http://www.robertwarrenartloft.com/) and attended my first painting workshop at the Art Loft in Cannel Winchester, Ohio. It was a great learning experience and I’ve tried to take some of his techniques and apply them to the things I want to paint. Now that I’m getting more and more into photography, I hope, my next workshop with Robert will be his Photoscapes Seminar because if anyone can help flatten out my learning curve I think it might be Robert.
Someone told me once that; unless you are willing to throw away a painting from time to time you’ll never get any better and if you ever do a painting that you are completely happy with…quit painting. I hope that I’ll continue to dabble with photography and piddle with the paintbrush in an effort to produce a painting I’m completely happy with but hoping it will never happen.
Pee Wee Basketball
Old Hores Barn
Black Water Creek
B & P Booth
Tranquility the photograph
The Brush and Palette Frame Shop