I have been driving around all week with this painting in my car!
Life has been pretty busy lately. My parents bought this painting for me from Jim Atwood’s last show a month or two ago and I’ve been trying to get it framed ever since. Every day I’ve almost been able to go something comes up, so it’s just been hanging out sitting shotgun!
When I got the painting, I ripped off the reused frame like the unexposed paper was going to reveal some secret message in the margins. Somehow I was a little disappointed it carried nothing “extra”. There’s something about the raw edges of the paint that I love though. I’m going to get it framed with these irregular edges exposed.
I knew Jim for 20 years. When I was in 2nd grade my mom enrolled me in an after school drawing class. The teacher was a gruff old guy that all of the kids were scared to talk to. He stood up at the front of the room with a large piece of newsprint and charcoal and showed us how to draw a different animal each week. He would give his drawing to a lucky student at the end of each session. Somewhere I have an alligator he drew!
At the end of the session Jim made arrangements with my parents for me to join a more permanent painting class at his home. At 8 years old, I was the youngest in the class full of high school students. I remember he and the students being pretty intimidating at first. Classes were two hours long and $7, all supplies included. In 10 years of classes, he only raised his prices by a dollar! He just wanted everyone to be able to paint and draw.
When I was younger, I probably spent as much time playing with Jim’s dog Fred as I did painting. Two hours was a long time to sit still! I would go upstairs and pet Tiffany, the gray dog rumored to be over 20 years old that sat at the top of the stairs. I would talk to Jim while he made dinner before my parents would pick me up. I would peek at the paintings on his easel and the books on his shelf next to it.
Thursday art classes were the highlight of my week. As I grew older, it was two hours a week where I could shut all other responsibilities out and just paint. If I was too fried to work, I would hang out and talk to Jim. After leaving for college, I would go back and visit when I could at home or at a gallery opening. If I went to his house, he was always just about to walk Fred when I came over, so we would take him to the park and catch up.
Last year I started a new job and felt like I had a little financial stability finally. Jim had an art opening at Inniswood Park and I was so excited to go buy a painting! Unfortunately my Nana’s health took a turn for the worst that day and I missed the show. We were with my Nana that afternoon when she died in hospice care. On my way home from hospice, I stopped to see Jim for a bit. A few weeks later he was hospitalized and died at the end of December in 2012. I spoke to him on the phone while he was still in the hospital and had a gut feeling that it was the last time. I hated being right.
Somehow I thought he would live forever and I would always be able to go home and visit him. I was lucky to have him around as long as I did. He gave me a chance to reach my potential and taught me skills that shape the way I think, teach, and paint. It is hard for me to imagine how bland my life would have been without him in it. He treated all of his students like family. He was funny and opinionated, full of wisdom, and a wonderful friend. I miss him very much.
The landscape painting is part of a show his family put together this fall to sell off his remaining work. I have to admit that the artwork in this show did not illustrate his amazing talent. I’m sure his family wanted to keep the pieces that were special to them though. Even in his old age, he had a hand as steady as surgeon. The detail in his paintings, especially those of birds, was remarkable.
If I could do anything in memory of him, I would love to catalog his work online. He had such a prolific career and I want others to be able to see the evolution of his efforts. I know it would be a difficult task, but somehow I think when it’s all meant to fall into place the opportunity will come my way.
If anyone owns one of his paintings and is willing to let me catalogue it, please email me. :)