This old schoolhouse, only a few miles from our house, is starting to get covered up by the encroaching trees. I’m a little worried they’re going to tear it down some day; so I grab a photo whenever I can.
This is the second painting I’ve done of it; the first was two years ago and it quickly sold. I’ve just started a third, much more modern and abstract interpretation of a close-up of the entrance. It will be a 48″ x 48″.
In case you have never seen it, I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful building that sits back and to the left of McKay Tower (my most-frequently-painted structure in downtown Grand Rapids). The ornate lines have always intrigued me; unfortunately, though, it’s half hidden by trees. The problem solved itself one day when I decided to snap an up-close photo of it, because of a big beer truck that was making a delivery to McKay and obstructing my “normal” view! The light and shade were creating a particularly strong contrast that day; perfect for me to relate the feeling I wanted to express about this dignified structure.
This painting occupied the easel for an exceptionally long time while I wrestled repeatedly with what color to paint the building on the far left. The actual color of the building finally won out, after many layers of paint, and after a long Thanksgiving break with my family, which was apparently just the ticket to clear my head about it!
Dennis took the photo below of me capturing the image.
After two weeks of vacation, and three weeks of being rather sick, I am so happy to be back at the easel!! I was worried I might have forgotten how to paint.
This scene is from photos I took last fall. It is way out in the country, south of us. In fact, it’s so far out, Dennis and I cannot remember the name of the streets that intersect right next to this building. The old structure looks like it might have been a school house, with the front, shallow building serving as an entryway. There were two skinny poles at the peak of the roof which looked like they might have supported a bell at one time.
I hope you’re getting a chance to see some great colors of autumn. Many blessings to you all!
“Every day the people of the United States are going into debt. It is not a money debt, it is a blood debt. It is a debt to the boys who have driven eastward across the whole of western Europe…”
Those were the opening lines of a dispatch written by Russell W. Davenport for the New York Post, dated May 7, 1945, describing the combat division and group that Dennis’s dad, Sgt. H. Rex Nelson, was a part of.
Reading farther down on this yellowed piece of paper–executed in single spacing on a manual typewriter–my heart is gripped for what Rex and the other soldiers (referred to as “doughboys”) went through: “A tremendous screen of machine-gun fire from our halftracks poured over our heads into the woods and our armored artillery lobbed shells into a big farm which burst into flames. With bitterness in our hearts, we watched a Nazi machine-gunner on the top of the hill above the doughboys poke his head up, fire, and disappear. And we saw the doughboys fall as his gun spat, and some of them stayed there. It isn’t as if they just had to do it once, they have to do it maybe several times a day when the division meets resistance like this. After they have overcome the enemy you see them coming out of their positions all covered with mud. Boys from all over the Union, all different, yet all bound together in this ordeal called war. You see them slogging back down the road, tired and grim, to their halftracks. You see them heave themselves in to rest. Then you hear the radio from the front end of the column which has been able to move about a mile because of what these doughboys did. There is more trouble ahead. The infantry is needed. The halftracks move forward, roaring. The boys inside them sit with heads propped in their hands trying to rest. Then the halftracks catch up, stop. The grimy doughboys climb out to begin the job all over again. And each time they do this a few of them are left behind. After you’ve done this for 1,599 miles your country owes you something, but the debt isn’t easy to pay!”
The gritty scene described above stands in stark contrast to the peaceful, debonair pose of Dad Nelson (pictured here). My painting of the photo is therefore a visual work of contrasts: the darkly shadowed interior juxtaposed against the brightly lit exterior, and expressed with multiple layers, drips, and marks.
To view the first three paintings in the WWII SERIES, see my Blog posts dated July 2, July 21, and July 28.