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Wandering art

January 13, 2012

Dear Artist,

When Dick and Shirley got divorced, Dick married Flo and Shirley married Dick's best friend, Mel. The two couples got along famously. At Christmas, for example, they always cut down and decorated the Christmas tree as one happy family, blended kids and all. Christmas dinner was always a not-to be forgotten celebration.

Every time I had a solo show at Dick's gallery, Mel was the jovial guy behind the bar. He did it for free. Everyone loved Mel.

Mel had a heart problem and one day his doctors decided to operate. They got his heart out okay, but it was too big, and they couldn't get it back in. After about a week of heroic attempts, Mel, who never really woke up, died.

Mel -- acrylic and collage on canvas 16 x 20 inches by Robert Genn 2000
Mel
acrylic and collage on canvas
16 x 20 inches
by Robert Genn
2000
Everyone was devastated. Tributes poured in. As a gift for Shirley, I painted Mel's portrait. Dick gave me a few photos to work from. One thing about acrylic, it's a cinch to add collage. Using acrylic medium, I put in a score-sheet of his favourite song, Danny Boy, photos of horses from the local racetrack and an old shot of Mel. On February 4, 2000, in a shower of tears, I presented my effort to Shirley.

After about a year, Shirley met John and within a few months they were married. The painting was passed on to Shirley and Mel's son, Peter, and that's when they lost track of the painting.

A few weeks ago a friend phoned and told me there was a painting of "a guy named Mel" in an auction and one of my dealers had bought it. I alerted Dick and during their even further blended family Christmas dinner--between the turkey and the pudding--they all went online, chipped in, and bought Mel back.

I don't know about you, but to me it's this sort of stuff that makes the whole art game worthwhile. That painting of Mel is just twelve years old and it has already had an adventure. I had a look at it and it's in good shape, still in the original frame. Goodness knows, Mel and his posthumous ramblings may have an even more exciting future.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Certain things need to be kept in a family." (Dick)

Esoterica: Given, sold or stolen, our work is a gift to the Art Diaspora. I'm not flattering myself when I say that two hundred years from now someone will probably be sending Mel out for a cleaning. Maybe, together with this story, Mel will stay around even longer. Other paintings of mine have phoned in sick from junk stores and dumpsters. One, a small landscape done along the Mackenzie River in July 2001, fell into the fast moving stream and disappeared in the direction of the North Pole. Perhaps, one fortuitous Christmas, Santa himself will recycle it to a nice family down south. Stranger things have happened.





Significance is key
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA


For me your letter wasn't as much about "Wandering Art" as it was about the meaning a piece of artwork A tribute to our fallen<br>watercolour painting by Brenda Behr A tribute to our fallen
watercolour painting
has to just the right person(s). In fact, the significance of the painting we bring to another person is most often the higher percentage of our motivation to do a painting. I'd always heard the community needs art; the world needs art. And I understood how we benefit through entertainment by the performing arts and I could not imagine a world without music, but I didn't understand entirely what painting brings to the world until I did a painting that brought tears to another human being.

As far as Mel went, I can't think of a better way to die than a big heart.



There are 2 comments for Significance is key by Brenda Behr

From: Anonymous -- Jan 16, 2012

Excellent! I love they way the former President expressed his thoughts on things that truly matter. Your painting is terrific, too. Thanks for sharing. -Michael

From: Brenda Behr -- Jan 17, 2012

Thank you, Michael. It was a privilege to be given a commission to paint this Veterans Memorial located in Goldsboro, NC, and an added honor to use Regan's quote. The quote is engraved in stone in one of the sidewalks at the memorial. The quote on the artwork is actually engraved in the glass that covers the painting and the black mat.


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Correct owner found
by James Pineault aka Reg Roxx, Toronto, ON, Canada


I saw "Mel" for sale at Heffel and seriously considered bidding on it - I thought it was a great piece and unusual since it was a collage, which you don't normally do. I decided to pass since it seemed a very personal piece and I didn't know Mel although we seemed to have varied interests based on the content of the collage - I am glad I passed on it as it seems to have found the correct owner.



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Long way around
by Jill Charuk, Vancouver, BC, Canada


I entered a small painting in a competition in Connecticut. It was selected. I packaged it up and Heavenly<br>acrylic painting<br>30 x 30 inches by Jill Charuk Heavenly
acrylic painting
30 x 30 inches
sent it off. It was for sale both online and in the gallery. It sold! I was delighted to have a sale on the opposite side of the continent and in another country to boot. After receiving the painting, shipped to her from the gallery, the buyer contacted me through my website. She lived in Canada and actually resided in my town. I could have walked the painting over to her from my studio. We laughed. The little 12 x 12 had a good start.



There is 1 comment for Long way around by Jill Charuk

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Jan 17, 2012

"Like"


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From junk shop to museum
by Bob Ragland, Denver, CO, USA


One of my art works ended up in a junk shop. It was sold to the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Weed holder<br>mixed media sculpture by Bob Ragland Weed holder
mixed media sculpture
Decorative Art in Denver. As a result, I now have thirty works of art in the permanent collection.

The sale of those works helped me get some financial traction as an artist.

It's nice to be in a museum collection and be vertical to see it.



There is 1 comment for From junk shop to museum by Bob Ragland

From: Anonymous -- Apr 20, 2012

The universe works in amazing ways!


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Highway house resurfaces
by Louise Francke, NC, USA


Recently, I received an email concerning a large watercolor of a farm house along the highway Untitled<br>watercolour painting by Louise Francke Untitled
watercolour painting
en route to the beach. It took me a while to remember the painting I had titled Highway House since it was created at a time before I started documenting all of my works. In the late '70s I stopped along a country highway to photograph a huge farm house. Later it became a 40 x 60" watercolor and was sold by my gallery to go into parts unknown. The person emailing me said he took his mother to see the painting and it was the house she had grown up in. What are the chances of a work of art resurfacing in that manner?



There is 1 comment for Highway house resurfaces by Louise Francke

From: Brenda Behr -- Jan 17, 2012

Serendipity strikes again! Louise, Lovely watercolor of the creek. Surely we have met. I have two paintings of scenes in Raleigh similar to this on my website. In fact, one of them is on my Premium Artist site right here on The Painter's Keys. I think I've painted en plein air at this very spot near Yates Mill. I must ask, what are these chances?


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Chance encounter
by Ellen Lyons, Red Deer, AB, Canada


I had done a line drawing of my friend's two little children. It was from the back when they were 2 and 3 years of age, sitting on my piano bench. The older sister was turning the page of the music sheets. The little boy was watching politely, his little short legs barely reaching beyond the bench. My brother had made the bench when he was a teenager. He did everything, was multi-talented and everything he did was to perfection.

I never earned much money with my art. I was a gas meter reader--a good paying job but having very little to do with creativity. It was more about outsmarting mean dogs with a palmed piece of cheese, secretly applied to eager mouths. I went into a house to read the meter--a beautiful heritage home with many wonderful architectural details. Passing through the living room, there, hanging above the piano was my drawing. I smiled!



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Family history is sacred
by Janice Vogel, Senden-Bösensell, Germany


Family history is sacred and not up to one family member to unilaterally get rid of a very special object. If Peter didn't have room for the painting, didn't like it or needed some extra cash, he should have approached the other family members to give them first dibs on the piece. How could you sell a picture of your dad to strangers? I just can't fathom that.

However, we had a similar experience in our family. The World War I medals from a great uncle had passed from my grandmother after her death to my aunt. One day, a number of years later, my cousin got a phone call from a local pawn shop saying that some WWI medals with his last name on them had turned up for sale. Apparently, my aunt had told the pawn shop owner that she needed the money for her granddaughter's university tuition. My cousin went down and bought the medals, never telling my aunt about it. My father was steamed when he heard and it took a long time before he got over his sister's behavior. It wasn't like she couldn't have afforded to help out her granddaughter. She had lots of money. Maybe the medals were collecting dust and she didn't see the purpose of keeping them but she should have called my dad first to ask. My cousin had the medals mounted with a photo of our great uncle and they are in my cousin's house. I am sure my cousin will take care to ensure that the medals land in the right hands after his death. It is our joint family history.



There are 4 comments for Family history is sacred by Janice Vogel

From: Susan Holland -- Jan 16, 2012

You have said a mouthful here, Janice. My late brother's wife was a late-comer to our family-- a young third wife. My brother had some family art, and it included a painting of my mother as a young woman by our aunt, who is incidentally a well known illustrator named Elenore Abbott. He also owned a portrait of my maternal grandfather-- the great grandfather of my children. And he also owned paintings by me, including a painting I did of Mom when she was just widowed, and some other art of places we had lived. None of these are available to our family, since the third wife is keeping them and will not reply to questions regarding the disposition of these pieces. It is a sore point, and not fair of her. I spawns a LOT of bad feeling, and is quite UNfeeling to the next generations because my kids are not able to even visit the paintings.

I will continue to make inquiries (the mail doesn't come back, so she's still there).

Sore subject. It's more than art when it's family portraits.

From: Karen -- Jan 17, 2012

Your story will ring lots of bells......I have had it in my own family, and have seen it in others, the "dog in the manger" syndrome. I've got it, you can't have it.... and I know you want it, tough. Funny creatures, we humans.

From: Anonymous -- Jan 17, 2012

Nothing to do with art, but my friend's father's house suffered a fire. When they went afterwards, the father was most upset about the loss of his dress uniform with his medals from WW2. They searched and couldn't find it. Later they found it under a tarp that the firemen used to cover the uniform to protect it ecause they realized the value.

From: Laura -- Jan 18, 2012

It may help to think that we are all one huge family. People research history of items they acquire and many orphan objects end up in museums where everyone can enjoy and learn from them. That's even better than keeping things in the family.


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Story of a self-portrait
by Cindee Moyer, IA, USA


Both my parents and the three of us girls were painters... varying degrees, of course. My It's De-lovely<br>original art dolls by Cindee Moyer It's De-lovely
original art dolls
youngest sister, while in junior high school, did a self-portrait in acrylics on an 18x24 canvas board circa 1970. She had round wire-rimmed glasses and red hair that she parted down the center and it was about chin length. It was a little impressionistic, but we could tell who it was. Fast forward about 35 years. My father had a garage sale and someone purchased my sister's self-portrait in bulk with several other canvases. Several months later, I was wandering through an antique 'mall' where hundreds of vendors have booths. I came around the corner and there, on an easel, was my sister. However, it said "Portrait of John Lennon, $100.00." We have all had a good laugh over that one! (And, no, I didn't buy it back - I left it for another Beatle's fan!)



There are 2 comments for Story of a self-portrait by Cindee Moyer

From: Win Dinn -- Jan 17, 2012

Love your dolls, Cindee - they SO make me grin!

From: Jackie Knott -- Jan 18, 2012

I've never been a doll person and hardly appreciate those handpainted porcelain dolls so many people collect ... but these are exquisite! Highly original, great energy, and wonderful character. Well done ....


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Boomerang painting
by Ron Unruh, Surrey, BC, Canada


Dated 1964, my 24x30 inch oil on canvas painting was titled Old Russian Woman. She, with the Mount Baker from Point Roberts<br>oil painting<br>16 x 20 inches by Ron Unruh Mount Baker from Point Roberts
oil painting
16 x 20 inches
twinkling eyes and wry smile, has a story. As a youth in March 1965 I traded the painting for a '57 VW Beetle to transport me to college. Then, thirty-one years later in 1996, the Ontario owner returned the painting to me. Thinking that the painting belonged with my family he wrote on the back of the painting his intention that my oldest child should be the recipient of this painting. At the time that it was returned to me, I was visiting from my home in British Columbia, four provinces away - a 4.5 hour flight. It could have been packaged and sent or carried with me. I chose to leave it in the care of a relative who desired one of my paintings. That was 1996. Then to my surprise in 2007 the painting once again became mine but once more I chose not to ship it home but rather tucked it behind my father's living room couch. When we cleaned the apartment following my parents' deaths, I examined the painting and made the decision that no one in my family had a place for this painting. With no one to whom to give it, I left it in a public place with a sign that it was free for the taking, and with my contact information if someone wanted to let me know they had it. I heard nothing for a long time yet was satisfied. She gave pleasure to a few for a long time.

Someone saw her. Her happy, dancing eyes captured attention. Someone took her to a Benefit Shop and here is the rest of her story. The Old Russian Woman lives on. Pat gave me permission to use his name. When Patrick is not working he occasionally pops into the Benefit Shop in St. Catharines to look around. During one visit he noticed the manager preparing this painting for auction. Given permission to look more closely at the canvas, Pat found that the eyes and the smile of the Russian Woman reminded him of his own grandmother whom he greatly admired. Upon reading the tale on the back of the painting about the trade for a VW and the previous owner's desire that the painting should be given to my eldest child, Pat considered asking the local St. Catharines Standard newspaper to publish a feature story. He wanted to send me a die cast '57VW Beetle and his contact information but could not locate the die cast model. Time passed and at last he chose to contact me by email seventeen months after I had turned the lights out in the refuse room. "Hello, Mr. Unruh, Just wanted to let you know your painting, which you traded for a Volkswagon Beetle is at my home, won at the Christian Benefit Shop here in St. Catharines. Any possibility you may write some history regarding your painting for me? Have a Great Day, Pat." I sent him the history. Then he wrote back to say that he would enjoy the old lady for a while but one day she might travel again so my eldest child could have her.



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Strange painting
by Duane Ellifritt, Gainesville, FL, USA


I own a painting that was done by a first cousin whom I never knew. It is a strange painting thatThe funeral<br>oil painting<br>by Sylvester James Ellifritt
The funeral
oil painting
by Sylvester James Ellifritt
immediately grabs the attention of anyone who comes in my house. How I happen to own this painting and the years of detective work I have done to find out something about the painter and the painting makes an interesting story and I have written it all down. You can read it here.



There are 6 comments for Strange painting by Duane Ellifritt

From: Sharon Cory -- Jan 17, 2012

What a wonderful story! and an amazing painting. Hope you're able to find a few more.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Jan 17, 2012

This wonderful story is one of the many reasons I so joyfully anticipate the arrival of your letters!

From: Mikki Root Dillon -- Jan 17, 2012

What a wonderful painting and a fabulous story. You did an amazing job tracking things down. More power to you in finding more of his paintings. I would have loved finding this one...it's amazing!

From: Linda Mallery -- Jan 17, 2012

What a great story! Keep us posted if you ever find the rest of his paintings!

From: Anonymous -- Jan 17, 2012

I have just finished reading your story.. I love family history. My own and everyone else's...

From: Anonymous -- Jan 20, 2012

Just wanted you to know that I enjoyed your story. You would make a great detective.


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Uncle and namesake revealed
by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery), Vancouver, BC, Canada


My name is Ted Lederer. I was named after my father's brother, Lt. Ted Lederer who was killed in action, April 4, 1945 in Germany fighting with the 100th U.S. Army, Company M, 398th infantry division. Company M was a machine gun squadron. These were the guys on the "pointy end of the stick." My uncle was a war hero, not just because he was killed in action, but a bona fide war hero. I never knew much about my uncle other than that my father (the youngest sibling of the three brothers and one sister) idolized his brother.

This past November 11th, Remembrance Day was cold and wet. It had been a few years since I had attended remembrances at the cenotaph at Victory Square in downtown Vancouver. This year I resolved to go, invited my 16 year old son, and off we went. My wife opted to stay home and do laundry.

A few days later I took my wife to dinner and while we were waiting for our food she mentioned to me that while folding laundry on Remembrance Day she was watching the television and saw an interview with a soldier who was an artist during World War II. He spoke about his memories and the art he did and among other topics spoke fondly about his company commander, Lt. Ted Lederer, who had been killed in action fighting in Germany and showed a sketch he had done of Ted Lederer. Needless to say I nearly went rogue; who was the artist, was this my uncle, what channel had it been on, what time of day was the interview on, was this a war artist or just a soldier who liked to sketch. My wife said she thought it was on KCTS, the public broadcasting channel out of Seattle, and that it was an interview that had been done elsewhere and was being re-broadcast. She thought it was aired at about 11 in the morning but couldn't really tell me much else. She did say she wrote some information on a piece of paper.

Could my wife find this piece of paper when we got home? Of course not. My running around like a mad man didn't help. Next day I called the TV station, then another. I searched online. Dead end. I couldn't find anything with the limited information I had.

I had almost given up, when out of the blue, 14 days later, the piece of paper surfaced late one night. On it was the name of the artist, Joseph Farris. Next morning at the office a simple Google search brought me right to Joseph Farris, alive and well and living in Bethel, Connecticut. Within moments I was on the telephone.

Joseph Farris was drafted at the age of 18, and as he writes, "I entered the army a naďve young man and left a battle-hardened naďve young man."

The soldier he sketched and spoke so fondly of was indeed my uncle. Mr. Farris had just published a book, A Soldier's Sketchbook , an illustrated memoir from a World War II soldier. After the war Joseph Farris went on to become a noted cartoonist, most famously for the New Yorker Magazine and had numerous solo exhibitions of his cartoons and paintings at prominent galleries in NYC. His work is in the collections of President Jimmy Carter, Paul Newman, Colleen Dewhirst, William Safire, Paul Mellon and many others. The interview that my wife had seen was a re-broadcast of an interview Mr. Farris had recently done with the BBC.

Joseph Farris was friendly with my uncle. They went through boot camp together, were shipped overseas together and fought alongside each other through France and Germany. It was my uncle who gave Farris a battlefield commission from Private to Sergeant. The book Mr. Farris wrote was published by National Geographic. I informed my aunt Terry (the only living member of the four siblings) and her daughter, my cousin Jeanne. Jeanne promptly called Mr. Farris. As a result of that call National Geographic sent my aunt a signed copy of the book along with a beautiful letter from Susan Tyler Hitchcock, Senior Editor at National Geographic. I informed Adrienne, my "step mother" who is incredibly close to us all. Adrienne emailed Joseph Farris thanking him for the wonderful book. A buzz of activity ensued including many further correspondences between myself and Joseph Farris and needless to say between myself and my family and friends.

Joseph Farris went on Furlough the day my uncle was killed but one of his war buddies, with whom he stayed close friends, saw my uncle get hit and die. His friend Joe S. didn't communicate much anymore but maybe he would know something. Next day I received an email from Joe S.'s son who is an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I take, a bit of an historian. The son had every detail of the battle, right down to the chatter between the radio-man requesting mortar support after they had taken "Castle Hill" and were surrounded and the chatter back as to why support couldn't be given - the guys in the support jeep had come across a wine cellar and had off loaded their munitions to fill the truck up with wine. My uncle had been killed a few hours earlier. I found out the where, why, when and how of it.

Now the conversation was crisscrossing the continent through the U.S. and Canada. Sixty-six years had elapsed, but on one level it was all very, very fresh. My uncle and namesake, a figure that had been somewhat of an enigma to me was now being fleshed out with stories and details. If only my father were alive, he so adored his brother.

This summer I shall take my son and hopefully my wife to see Joseph Farris in Connecticut. Then again, perhaps my wife should just stay at home and fold more laundry.



There is 1 comment for Uncle and namesake revealed by Ted Lederer (Elliott Louis Gallery)

From: Kathy -- Jan 17, 2012

What a great story! And do take your wife- if she hadn't stayed home that day, this all wouldn't have happened.


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Robbie Laird workshops  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Robbie Laird workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Wandering art...

From: Janet Sellers -- Jan 12, 2012

Wow. Just wow. I do like knowing that people treasure their artworks and that artworks find their way home, sometimes home after home after home. Just when I think maybe nobody really cares about paintings anymore, I find out they do.

From: Daniela -- Jan 12, 2012

Well fancy that, it is fascinating to see a very well crafted portrait by you, especially as I have never ever seen one by you before! An interesting story, too. Can't help wondering what Mel's painting's journey was like.

From: Patty Cucman -- Jan 12, 2012

Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction.

From: mary spring -- Jan 12, 2012

Very touching story. I had 2 or 3 paintings just walk away, when I was in California. One, which was one of my personal favorites, was called tea for two. It was a small table secluded in a garden spot in Cayucus, a beach near Pismo. It was painted with my heart, and came out with that sort of "feel" attached. It was only a 8x10, but it packed power. Maybe someday, it, too, will show up in a yard sale or dumpster, looking for me....Thanks for such sweet thoughts.

From: Ron Unruh -- Jan 13, 2012

Dated 1964, my 24X30 inch oil on canvas painting was entitled ‘Old Russian Woman.’ She, with the twinkling eyes and wry smile has a story. As a youth in March 1965 I traded the painting for a 57 VW Beetle to transport me to college. Then thirty-one years later in 1996 the Ontario owner returned the painting to me. Thinking that the painting belonged with my family he wrote on the back of the painting his intention that my oldest child should be the recipient of this painting. At the time that it was returned to me, I was visiting from my home in British Columbia, four provinces away - a 4.5 hour flight. It could have been packaged and sent or carried with me. I chose to leave it in the care of a relative who desired one of my paintings. That was 1996. Then to my surprise in 2007 the painting once again became mine but once more I chose not to ship it home but rather tucked it behind my father's living room couch. When we cleaned the apartment following my parents' deaths, I examined the painting made the decision that no one in my family had a place for this painting. With no one to whom to give it, I left it in a public place with a sign that it was free for the taking, and with my contact information if someone wanted to let me know they had it. I heard nothing for a long time yet was satisfied. She gave pleasure to a few for a long time.

Someone saw her. Her happy, dancing eyes captured attention. Someone took her to a Benefit Shop and here is the rest of her story. The Old Russian Woman lives on. Pat gave me permission to use his name. When Patrick is not working he occasionally pops into the Benefit Shop in St. Catharines to look around. During one visit he noticed the manager preparing this painting for auction. Given permission to look more closely at the canvas, Pat found that the eyes and the smile of the Russian Woman reminded him of his own grandmother whom he greatly admired. Upon reading the tale on the back of the painting about the trade for a VW and the previous owner’s desire that the painting should be given to my eldest child, Pat considered asking the local St. Catharines Standard newspaper to publish a feature story. He wanted to send me a die cast ‘57VW Beetle and his contact information but could not locate the die cast model. Time passed and at last he chose to contact me by email seventeen months after I had turned the lights out in the refuse room. "Hello, Mr. Unruh, Just wanted to let you know your painting, which you traded for a V.W. Beetle is at my home, won at the Christian Benefit Shop here in St. Catharines. Any possibility you may write some history regarding your painting for me? Have a Great Day, Pat." He sent him the history. Then he wrote back to say that he would enjoy the old lady for a while but one day she might travel again so my eldest child could have her.

From: Carole Mayne -- Jan 13, 2012

One of the most touching paintings I've seen in your collection of goodness. Thank you for sharing it and all the love you put into it.

From: Gail Caduff-Nash -- Jan 13, 2012

Good story & something I've been asked about before. I've handed over a lot of paintings to people who loved them. One in particular lives in California & has moved from the bathroom to the laundry room to the kitchen (upward mobility?) as she saw fit to decorate. Others I have not a clue about and expect to run across in a yard sale somewhere. It makes me think when I'm about to send another "baby" out into the world. I don't ever give my work to someone without them asking for it. The ones that have sold - I wonder if someone's waiting for me to keel over to increase their value? Wishful thinking. I do hope they have been admired over the years and given good homes. Someone has said (many times) that something given is not valued as highly as something bought. It's not true for myself - I love gifts and value them a lot. But when someone really loves a piece of art, it becomes more than just a geegaw gathering dust in their house. It becomes a reflection of their mood, their life, their decorating tastes or it is a reminder of someone lost, or maybe a place lost, in time. Anyway, it is our vanity that wants us to keep them around; and it's our generosity that wants to let them go. Thanks for posting this article.

From: Sara Spanjers -- Jan 13, 2012

I wondered how many artists have had a similar experience. Mine was an e-mail from some one who purchased a 1989 oil of mine that was a commission. He found it at a Salvation Army!! I like thinking about the painting's journey…road….lesson's learned……rather than "THE SALVATION ARMY?" AND "YOU PAID HOW MUCH?"
It's all good!

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt -- Jan 13, 2012

I've done some painting of my grandchildren which I would like to give to them. Would they value it as I wish they would or would they sell it? I never put paintings of my family for sale. The story behind "Mel" is very curious too; it is admirable that these families got along very famously. It is almost like a fairly tale. It is very interesting that the divorce did not produce any animosity between the families instead they bonded. What a wonderful relationship indeed.

From: Paul Truitt -- Jan 13, 2012

It's frightening how civilized some folks are, while the rest of us are flailing around with our resentments and anger. Oh, not me. I love everyone.

From: Jan Ross -- Jan 13, 2012

I think 'Mel' just wanted to keep an eye out for his family and friends by reappearing! His spirit lives!

From: Michele Amy -- Jan 13, 2012

I've been subscribing to your letters for some time, and I just wanted to thank you for your ramblings and inspirational messages.

Although I'm a musician ( but I dabble in pottery), I always find relevance in your messages, and enjoy making the stretch from visual art to aural art.

Sometimes we just carry on, not knowing that our work makes a difference in people's lives.

I just wanted to let you know that you do.

From: Beverly Galante -- Jan 13, 2012

I was astounded one day while browsing in a junk shop very far away from my original home town when I saw a painting I had done as a young student. It was definitely mine, since it was a still-life setup with MY things. It was selling for FAR more than I ever got for it. In fact, 50 cents more, and since I had given it away initially, I let it go once again. Didn't want to pay the 50 cents.

From: Camille Ronay -- Jan 13, 2012

Your latest letter about Mel and his "family" captivated me from the first paragraph, and held my interest throughout. What a blessing to be able to watch what happens to a painter's portrait. "

From: Kaye Callaway -- Jan 13, 2012

Sometimes I wonder if my long ago paintings are still “circulating,”—especially the family portraits. Maybe you’ve inspired me to see if I can track some down!

From: Rick Rotante -- Jan 13, 2012

This is an interesting story and I wanted to tell you the story of a very good friend of mine. Years ago I painted two portraits. One of her husband and one of her. This is a family with whom I am close. The works have hung in the den of their home for years now. Two years ago the husband died leaving the mother, her daughter with her two grown girls in the house. Recently, at a party given in her honor, she called me aside and said she was going to will the two portraits back to me when she passes. I was shocked and surprised and asked wouldn’t the portraits go to the family? She said she didn't think they would want them since they showed no interest in them while they hung in her living room. I will of course honor her wishes and take the portraits back upon her death, but I am saddened to think the family wouldn't want them.
In defense of my work, I have to say the portraits were well painted and the resemblances were spot on. I guess an art sensibility isn't inherited. The family doesn't see any reason to ask me to keep the paintings and I guess I see no reason to give them if they don't request them.

From: D F Gray -- Jan 14, 2012

Mel owned one of my works and I remember a dinner with that group

From: Nancy Stewart Matin -- Jan 14, 2012

About ten years ago I sold a Picasso-like self-portrait, a watercolor, titled "Saturday Nite at the MOMA". I loved that piece and was sorry to sell it. It went to a lady who was a friend. She passed on recently, and the sons held an estate sale, and there was the MOMA .. in perfect shape, at the same price (apparently I hadn't increased in value .. ha). My partner and I went to the sale, which was a three day event, on the first day he wanted to buy it back, but I said, nah wait till the third day, the price will go down nobody else will want it; it's too edgy. Sure enough, the third day we got the MOMA back home and at a reduced price. I still love the piece. Welcome home.

From: Rodrica Tilley -- Jan 14, 2012

In the early 80's two small unframed watercolors of red amaryllis were stolen from a gallery where I was having a show. The gallery owner was embarrassed and paid me for the work. Over 25 years later I received a plain wrapped package with no return address on it containing the two missing florals! My mailing address was still evident and current on the label attached to the back of these paintings. It is still a mystery but we have had great fun manufacturing stories around this little theft and recovery. I just hope someone who could not afford them was enjoying them all those years and it didn't weigh too heavily on their conscience.

From: Chris Carter -- Jan 14, 2012

As serious as we get with our art, our ethics, our goals, our values, our sense of what is "right" in the pursuit of true art...... we are often taken down by the simplicity of giving people what they want and that, for some reason, endures. I love it. It helps me keep a balance... it helps me to keep striving for what I want, while at the same time, on occasion..... making a few people happy. Thank you for this post!

From: Jerry Mayfield -- Jan 16, 2012

Fascinating and heartwarming story of Mel's portrait. One sentence however left me wondering about a wandering big heart. As a surgeon I am not aware of a heart being surgically removed and then could not be replaced in the patient because it was too big??

From: Mike Barr -- Jan 16, 2012

Some paintings do have remarkable stories attached to them and artists are privileged to have knowledge of these things.
A few years back I donated a painting for a raffle at a community art show. The lady who won the raffle was thrilled to win the painting only to find it didn't match the curtains when she got home. She was pleased even further to sell the painting to a friend for a few hundred dollars. The friend proudly hung the paintings and waited for the family to see the new addition to the home. One of her daughters came home that night and on seeing the painting burst into tears. When I heard this part of the story my heart swelled with pride at evoking such emotion from one of my paintings! My bubble was soon burst however on hearing that the daughter had just broken up with her boyfriend at the very beach my work depicted. The painting was passed on again and I am yet to hear further reports on its travels!
You can view the painting in question here http://www.artofbarr.blogspot.com/2009/03/autumn-sun-goolwa-beach.html

From: Susan -- Jan 16, 2012

I was surprised to find an early painting of mine in a small junk store one day and I told the owner that I had painted it. He got very excited, shook my hand and graciously asked me to sign the back of it for him. It was a pleasant experience.

From: Tom Johnsen -- Jan 16, 2012

This shows what we must do if we wish to record on that psyche. We imbue with images. It doesn't matter what the source, it is what it forces one to feel. You have to be alive it. It's the only speech that lasts.

From: Myrna Anderson -- Jan 16, 2012

Several years ago I had gone to an estate sale of an elderly couple who had purchased a painting from me and as I was walking through the home I saw my painting on the wall for sale for a lot less than what they had paid for it. I was thinking "Wow, I could buy that painting and resell it." Thinking that no one would buy it and that I could just purchase it on my out, I continued to browse.

Well, to my surprise, I was in a room casually checking the merchandise when a couple came into the room excitedly talking about this painting and how much they loved it and how it was going to fit perfectly in their home with their other bird paintings. So, of course I asked them if they were talking about the swan painting and they said 'yes'. I told them that I was the artist and we got into a great conversation where I found out they had actually bought the painting. I was a little disappointed at first on having missed my opportunity for a resale, but, I was so happy that they loved my work that all was forgiven and we ended up with big hugs all around. I went home with a big smile on my face and a little skip in my step.

From: Karen R. Phinney -- Jan 17, 2012

This last email, from Myrna A., goes to show what I've always said: you are happier that someone really loves your work, than getting money for your work! I sold some art one time awhile back at my home, to clear out some older things, and my neighbours and friends came. The money was to be partly given to charity. A fourteen year old neighbour's son whom we know quite well stood in front of the painting I had done of the street hockey game on our street, and which he frequently played. He came back later with some money, after telling his folks that he wanted it, and then he went home with it and hung it on his wall. His mom and dad told me a bit later, that he lies on the bed and stares at it! I was thrilled that a young person would be so attracted to a piece of my art. It meant more than selling a more expensive piece.... and when things don't sell, that there have been a few "hits" over the years. When someone tells you they "just love your painting" it makes your day and it makes all the effort and struggle worth while!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Jan 17, 2012

I sometimes alter old postcards. I have a series based on Killer Bees (!). I gave one to a friend, showing some Killer Bees visiting her father's birthplace, Bickels Knob, W.VA. Years later I found it in a thrift shop, still framed. After I got over the little shock, I bought it, for two dollars. The man had died and apparently his widow (second wife) failed to recognize the profound importance of this work!

From: Karen -- Jan 18, 2012

to Rick Rotante, If you wait ten years, the children may be thrilled to get the paintings back. This is not about the art. This is about the hyperfocus of the young on their emerging adventure. The importance these paintings has not reached them yet.

From: Chris Everest -- Jan 20, 2012

What about a collection of these stories ? Robert. Next book ? Knowing this community copyright permission wouldn't be a problem. "The Art Diaspora (A power to change the World)". I found a lot of these very moving and I am sure from the comments so did other artists and readers. Thank you.

From: Bob McGill -- Jan 20, 2012

Your post and previous comments reminded me that John Sargent made the marvelous comment 'A portrait is a painting with a little something wrong about the mouth' after a sitting in which the Sassoon family somehow got involved.

From: Tania Hanscom -- Jan 20, 2012

I think you should only offer criticism if it is asked for. I think the mouth was fine and it probably emotes some memory of the person in life. We could never know that just by looking.

From: Melissa Keyes -- Jan 20, 2012

Seems people feel required to make comments. Silence is golden.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki -- Jan 20, 2012

There is nothing wrong with Mel’s mouth. The critics are probably not used to your flattening of planes to achieve specific design goals, which is not commonly done in portraiture. It will be one day described as Gennism.

From: Mary-Ann -- Jan 21, 2012

I think your painting of Mel was superb and captured the very essence of the man whom you described in your writing! I feel sad for those among us who cannot control their compulsion to share their perceived shortcomings of another artists' work. I understand these unsolicited observations to be their way of coping to ensure that their world remains neat and orderly. Don't give their comments energy.





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