"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sitting still, portraits of growing up, and memories

Just before I went to college; Dad's last portrait of me
"Sit still."
That's what my brother Jerry said, when I asked him if he remembered our Dad probably said when we posed  as he was drawing our portraits.
He was wondering if anyone else had to sit for portraits when growing up, especially now that everything is done from photography.
Jerry's the one who suggested this article a while back, and I've been scrounging to find some examples.
Jerry as a teen
Got me to thinking that he provided us some excellent training perhaps...like being behind the wheel by ourselves on long drives. Of course the other side is that those sessions may have made us all the more ready to travel, and not sit still.
At any rate, we both grew up sitting still through the years. I don't think we can't remember not having to sit still. I only wish he could have drawn portraits of my children and grandchildren. Alas.
 Dad could draw before he could walk and had a remarkable talent for capturing the essence of a person, quickly, or even in more detailed work.
Cowboy--13x20,
He drew portraits all his life, living off them at times in the Depression, when beating around the country, especially in New Mexico. There he would frequent the  hotel bars and do "quick sketches" of cowboys and anyone else, who'd pay him 25 cents for one so he could buy meals. That was only a few years after he'd lost his leg hopping a freight train in Tucumcari. "My Dad had a wooden leg."
He also drew a portrait of correspondent Ernie Pyle that was auctioned off in Dallas in 1944 for $1 million to buy war bonds. And one portrait became his masterpiece, the detailed portrait of Will Rogers.
An early one of Jerry, and Jerry colored the background
Lots of his work hangs in our houses, and we have more stuffed away in files, with no place to put them. Here's a sampling.
Have you ever sat for a portrait? It's an exercise in patience and self control.
Now that I think about it, I'd like to ask him what he was thinking, as he watched us grow up, having chronicled us sitting still through the years.
 
Age 5--small one hanging in my bathroom
I also know he drew portraits of many family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, more distant relatives, and periodically someone will send me one he did long ago. Every one is a memory, a bit of personal history. Those deserve the next two posts.

Another of Jerry

 Some are tattered, like memories.
And some predate memory, maybe the first

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