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Gallery Tours

Sunday, December 9, 2007

On Saturday, December 1, gallery tours at the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art started early. I'd never led a gallery tour. I gathered that I was supposed to go from painting to painting, talking about them. So that's what I did.
photo by Bob Zickefoose
There are so many stories behind paintings, especially when they're done from live creatures, that it wasn't hard to do. I had about ten minutes in between by Bob Zickefoose
My brother Bob and sister-in-law Bonnie drove up from Virginia, too, and it was so great to see them. Bob reminds me so much of my dad that I had to duck out of the tour for a couple of minutes to compose myself. It's funny how people live on in their children, and beautiful, too. That simple fact knocked the wind out of me. There was Dad. I mean Bob. I gave him my camera and he took about 50 pictures, glad to be given a job. That's a Zickefoose by Bob Zickefoose

I'm pretty sure that Chet Baker is the only dog who's ever set foot in the Ned Smith Center gallery. It's a nice gallery. Dogs aren't allowed. But over the course of the weekend, Baker wormed his way into the hearts of the staff and board of directors (who already loved dogs anyway), and because there were so many blog readers present and paying for the tours, it was decided to allow Chet in the gallery to meet them. Nobody objected to his puppyish affection. Here, he pesters Derek, the all-purpose graphics and computer dude at the Center, who is trying to videotape the tour. Derek is a big-dog guy, a Lab guy. But he "gets" little dogs now, thanks to Chet. I think he likes Chet a whole lot. Here, he looks like he's worried I'll drop by Bob Zickefoose

Being "on" for an entire weekend isn't easy for me. I can do it, and find myself working festivals where I have to be "on" for field trips and keynotes and signings and meeting people. But it's an effort, because I spend so much time alone. It was great to have Bill and the kids there to keep me grounded, even though I couldn't spend much time with them. Baker was there for me, and being able to cuddle him and just inhale his scent truly helped get me through. Thanks so much, Ned Smith Center, for understanding just how vital Chet Baker is to me, and making room for him, too. He's like my mental health guide dog. I understand that there are some people trying to make a case that they have to have their dogs with them at all times, because the dogs prevent panic attacks. So, like, they have to have Fluffy on the plane or they'll go all postal. Hmmm. Mental health therapy dogs. It's a scam I could work. Baker's essential.
When I wasn't meeting people, I was busy at a little work station in the Center's office, cranking out color remarques on books for special donors and sponsors of the show. See Baker curled up on his chair?

I got a little carried away on this one. It was for someone who had bought the chance to commission a special remarqued copy of my book at the silent auction. The gentleman loves box turtles. I do, too. I've found that the flannel-textured endpapers of Letters are much better for painting on than the title pages. Painting on coated stock is like painting with a banana on glass. Lotsa cussing.

Chet Baker commandeered a seat in the Center's office, right by a window where he could watch for me coming and going. He kept me company while I worked, and circulated the office for pats and hugs. It has never occurred to Chet that he might not be allowed on furniture wherever he goes. He is blissfully innocent of such rules, a perfect little heathen, but a clean one. He does not really know he's a dog. He thinks he's part of the social scene. I can't imagine where he got that idea. Give Chet a table with chairs, and he'll claim one right away.Mether. Are you almost done? I am popping. Take me out for a walk, please!

Saturday afternoon, after the gallery tours and book signing, I gave a two-hour seminar on how I paint. Well, sort of about was more about why I paint. There was some brass tacks instruction, but it was really more about how I learn about birds and animals, and how that comes out in the paintings and drawings. I figure you can learn about mixing colors in any book. My family and friends stayed for it. That was the most I could have hoped for. photo by Bill Thompson, III

There was another book signing afterward. Kathy B. requested a Baker pawdyprint in her book. Baker hates doing that, but he was a gemmun about it. (Dogs hate to have their paws handled.) Look at that face. Mether. Must I?
Yes, you must. We all sacrifice for art. photo by Bill Thompson, III

He loves Kathy, and spent a lot of time on her lap, and that of her husband. At first, he thought the Center's office was some kind of fancy kennel, and he cried a little bit when we left him there. Then he figured out that Mether would be dropping in regularly for visits, and got into the swing of things. I think the Center needs a staff Boston. Just as a greeter. I realize that not everyone is going to take my suggestion, but I'm just sayin'.photo by Bill Thompson, III

One of the great highlights of the weekend was a visit from Chet's breeder, Jane, who hadn't seen her boy since February 17, 2005. Oh, oh, oh. It was so wonderful to see her again. She couldn't take her eyes off Baker. Little wonder; he had his Velcro bow tie on and looked verra dapper. We took him outside, and he struck a pose looking for bunnehs, and Jane blurted, "He stacks so nice!!!"

I swear he remembered Jane--he certainly remembered the smells on her shoes! But as Jane says, "Bostons never met a stranger." So it's hard to tell if he remembered her, or if he was just being his effusive self.
photo by Bill Thompson, III

How much joy this woman has brought into our lives, and the lives of so many, with her power-packed black-and-white capsules of love and hilarity! Thank you, Jane. Love you. BFF.

Thus ends the report on the show. I have to admit, it took some nudging from people for me to write this up. There is something in me that shies away from self-promotion. It makes me feel icky. I'd so much rather hole up with a computer and my drawing table, and just make some product. Cranes and woodpeckers are so much more interesting to write about. But thanks to the folks who emailed me to ask about the show, gently urging. Done now. On to the real work.


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