A LITTLE PIECE OF VINCENT IN MY HAND

A LITTLE PIECE OF VINCENT IN MY HAND

I was only 10 years old. My art supplies consisted of a black and a red pencil (the kind you had to unravel as you wore the lead down). My father brought them home to me from the office. He was the Drama Editor at the Evening Star Newspaper. I had piles of newsprint that he would also bring home. Back in those days, all of his columns were produced on newsprint using a manual typewriter. I did dabble in painting using berries or mud or coffee or tea for pigment. As you might imagine, newsprint did not hold up very well.

Being a newspaper man, he encouraged reading at a very young age. My first grade reading included "Bring'em back alive" by Frank Buck and "Stuart Little" by E.B. White. A door to door Encyclopedia Britannica salesman found success at our door and I had free reign to dig into those tomes. I learned all about famous artists and famous art and far away places. I scoured through those pages every night.

 

I had a free spirit and tended to roam. My sister told me the thing she said most as a child was "He's gone again!".  I traveled down Porter Street to the zoo in a push pedal car. I spent days and nights poking around Columbia Road. I may not have been on any most wanted poster, but the beat cops knew me on sight and gathered me up and took me home on many occasions.

 

My dad would take me to movie openings almost weekly. When I got much older, I realized he was just giving my mother a break. She was always in charge of tracking me down when I disappeared. I was just happy to be the one my dad took to the events. He would tell me a few days before the screening. I would ask so many questions about what we were going to see, it must have driven him crazy. He was patient. He sat in his study and answered every question or helped me research in our encyclopedias. 

 

In September 1956, my father shared we were going to see a movie about a famous artist. His name was Vincent VanGogh. A couple days before going, I looked at pictures and read a short bio and looked some more. This was the first movie we would see that was about an artist. I was excited. He had taken me to see Abbott and Costello movies. We had seen Davey Crockett. He took me to "Fresh from Paris" and "Lady and the Tramp".

 

I remember that day. My father drove us in a car! It was the first car in the family and I was riding in the front seat with my dad. We went into the theater and the smell of fresh popcorn filled the air. My dad took me by the hand to a group of men. I was shocked. Standing before me was Vincent VanGogh ( He sure looked like him, remember I was only 10.). The newspaper men were gathered around him taking notes for their columns. There was the writer from the Washington Post and Dick Coe from the News. My father brought me, his wide eyed son, to meet Vincent. He smiled and handed me his pochade box. It had tubes of acrylic paint and a couple brushes and a palette inside. My dad suggested I go into another room and paint a little. I did. Real paint. To me, it was just like the paint VanGogh used. It was bright and thick and just marvelous!

 

I watched all two hours of the film. They talked a lot but my goodness the colors were magic. I was hooked. I had real paints and brushes. I was an artist. I never looked back. I paid rapt attention to the nuns when they shared art. I ended up in the art room in high school for several hours every day. I spent a good period of time in New Orleans creating and selling art in Jackson Square. The Maryland Jockey Club selected me to create the art for the Preakness in 2002 and 2003. I have been pushing paint in one way or another for almost six decades. 

 

It all started with the kindness of Kirk Douglas and a paintbox. It is only fair to share that much later in life, my father told me that the grownups wanted to chat and imbibe (newspaper folks did not have a drinking problem) and that is why I was handed the paint box. No matter. It was my Rubicon. Now you know the rest of the story...

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