I’m going to dedicate this blog to my mom, who passed away in 1989 and never got to see me paint for a living. She saved all my drawings from childhood and always seemed to enjoy what I had drawn. We went to the Corcoran Art Gallery and the National Gallery, just the two of us, long before I had any clue that I wanted to be an artist. For several reasons I am dedicating this blog to her. First, my dad and mom were both WWII Veterans and very proud of their country. They would have gotten a real kick out of me getting to meet several Presidents and some of our top Generals from our armed forces. She would have loved hearing about some of my other memorable art related experiences too. The other reason I dedicate this blog to her is because I can just hear her saying “Don’t get too high on yourself” or “Don’t let it go to your head”. She was always one to remind me that modesty is the best policy. So with that in mind, the following stories should not be interpreted as being boastful but rather as a flashback to some of the wonderful memories and opportunities we have experienced throughout my art career.
This blog I felt would be appropriate after my last blog about meeting General David Whaley and working closely with General Ross Thompson.
One of the cool things about being an artist is taking a white canvas; painting something and having that painting take you somewhere. Sometimes a painting will spur interest in future works by collectors and lead to exciting new opportunities. Sometimes a painting might excite a gallery owner, who then wants to promote you. Sometimes if you’re lucky you might sell your painting to someone who introduces you to people and places you never thought you’d meet or see. Many times an artist doesn’t know where a painting ends up because they’ve sold it through a gallery. Other times, because of my art, I find myself suddenly in the middle of the life of the rich and famous!
Here are a few pictures (and stories) of us with people I never, ever thought I’d meet and probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t become an artist. General Norman Schwarzkopf was a much bigger presence than I had expected. We found him immediately likeable, warm and engaging. I think he took a liking to Jen, whom he towered over!
President George H. W. Bush was so warm and friendly, a true gentleman. On this special evening, we had a nice chat with the former President about a mutual acquaintance, his sister! We had a good laugh when this picture was developed. Because President Bush is so tall, the cameraman didn’t want to cut off the top of the President’s head so instead he cut off Jen’s neck. We had to take off the frame, which was stapled shut to move Jen’s head up a little! LOL.
I didn’t get my picture taken with the First Lady Barbara Bush but I had the honor of having my painting of the Camden Public Library (Maine) presented at the dedication of the library’s new Centennial Wing where Mrs. Bush was the keynote speaker.
On another occasion, I found myself having dinner, sitting next to arguably the most famous living American painter, Jamie Wyeth. He was wearing red high-top Converse All-Star sneakers (Chuck’s), jeans and a coat and tie. Along with his long hair and a little bit of cobalt blue paint under his fingernails, I thought to myself “now he looks like an artist”! I also thought I need to loosen up a little. :-)
One day I was painting away, and then that night I was shaking hands with Jamie’s father, Andrew Wyeth, at the opening of the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine! He had a big friendly smile and seemed quite the opposite of his reclusive reputation. I had seen his work in the National Gallery of Art years ago! We also caught a glimpse of his muse, Helga, that night! I heard through a collector that he had paid me a supreme compliment on one of my paintings! You can read about it here.
One of my paintings ended up in the home of a former top guy in the FBI. He was one of the guys responsible for bringing down the Gambino crime family and the Mafia in New York. His name is Jules Bonavolonta and he wrote the book The Good Guys. Well next thing I knew I was reading all about the Mafia and becoming exposed to another world. We were also fortunate to meet Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI. I read his book My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia and between the two books all of a sudden I was looking over my shoulder and afraid to go out at night! :-)
One of my paintings ended up as a gift for the former Redskin coach and racecar owner Joe Gibbs. I’d never been to a Nascar event before but one day I found myself down in the Pit with the Joe Gibbs racing team! The noise was unbelievable even with ear plugs. The speed of the cars going around the track was way beyond comprehension. It too was another world as I’m usually driving in the right lane with two hands on the wheel!
A gallery owner several years ago let us know that the New York billionaire Larry Silverstein, owner of the World Trade Center, was interested in my maritime work for his new yacht. We excitedly drove a number of paintings up to Connecticut only to learn later that he bought someone else’s work! Already looking forward to a cruise on his 174 foot yacht with a few Beebes on board, I was very disappointed! Champagne, caviar….NOT!
I’ve written before about my good fortune of knowing and painting the late Katharine Aldridge Tucker, a famous former model and movie actress. Getting to know Kay was a fascinating time in our lives, as she was one of a kind and a real treasure. Her stories of Bogie, Jimmy Stewart, Howard Hughes, Salvador Dali and many more, captivated us as we’d sit and listen while enjoying “kitchen parties” in her home.
Well, I don’t mean to be name-dropping but it’s been and continues to be a fascinating ride. It never ceases to amaze me how many different worlds there are out there. I appreciate the fact that the art world has introduced me to many of them, worlds that I never would have known otherwise. And to my late mom, don’t worry recessions have a way of keeping an artist humble! :-)