On The Surface, Part II

David and I walked up the driveway toward an open garage on a warm, late summer night. An older gentleman stood on the left side of the entry, lingering from his exchange with Tony who turned around to see us approaching. We shook hands as David introduced me, providing a little background for us being there. I needed help putting together a wooden surface for my paintings and was hoping Tony would be willing to advise me on the best way to do that. It didn’t take much convincing for him to agree to the endeavor. After the introductions, Tony handed a painted canvas over to the other gentleman who thanked him and left soon thereafter. The painting was a portrait- very well done and realistically rendered.

Tony invited us into his house where he showed some samples of his own paintings. A few of them were painted on wooden boards, giving us a point of reference for the project. I had no idea he was an artist and was very impressed with the photo-realistic quality of his paintings. I asked him if he had ever shown his work in a more formal setting such as a gallery. He just smiled back and told me he only painted for himself. Seeing I was genuinely interested in his work, Tony took us back to a cramped room in the far corner of the house that served as his artist studio. There, he had rigged an easel up to a wall with a makeshift lighting arrangement hanging from the ceiling. On the easel was a painting in progress with a reference photograph tacked above it and to the right; there was little difference between the two. I realized then the painting Tony handed over earlier in the garage must have been a commissioned work.

We soon returned to the wood shop and got down to business. David excused himself to return home as Tony and I began to discuss technical matters. I had brought over two boards that were cut in half from one giant 8’ x 8’ sheet of hardboard. With the help of his giant table saw, it didn’t take long for us to cut six new rectangular surfaces down to size for our first attempt at these painting boards. Tony advised me on options for preparing the surface and we agreed to meet in the next week or so to apply a cradle/frame backing to the eighth-inch thick boards, providing both support and a nice finish to the wood.

I left Tony’s wood shop that night charged. His knowledge, selflessness and background in art were refreshing and inspirational. I returned to my studio that week and experimented with several different methods for priming the wooden surfaces, keeping in mind the scientific properties I had learned from Tony and the other woodworkers I had consulted with. Two weeks later, I returned to Tony’s garage.

The evening began with a trip out to his storage unit where he had some scraps of maple he thought would suffice as the backing to the boards. During our conversation on the way, he told me a little bit more about himself and I was happy to find some common ground in the way we view the world. Like me, he had worked in corporate america at one time and through his own circumstances, eventually realized that way of earning a living was not for him, so he pursued a career as a self-employed woodworker. Though he was extremely gifted in his craft, he actually was trained at an early age to be a painter. Something about the experience, however, ultimately soured him to the world of professional art as he saw his father who was also an aspiring artist and his father’s artist-friends deal with the strange world of those who earn a living selling other people’s art.

To Be Continued...