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Best subjects to paint are outside

March 24, 2012

By CAROLE MCREYNOLDS DAVIS

It was a beautiful early morning just after sunrise on Oct. 9, 1978, and I was driving along the roadsides searching for a subject to paint for that day. I was getting into our remote and rural bumpy roads into the real world of country living. Suddenly to the left I saw an old man sitting on his broken down front porch looking down at something in his hands.

I pulled into his dirt/grassy road, which was more like a path leading up to his modest, falling down home. He looked up from what he was doing and said, “Come on to my porch!” I told him who I was and that my mission was to paint his portrait. He smiled and said, “Sure.” I was so excited as I got my supplies from my car and popped up my easel. My thoughts were of the beautiful day and my beautiful subject.

Why do I go outside to paint? This is where my best subjects live. I hope when each one of my paintings have been completed that you can hear those old pick-up trucks rattling by on those bumpy country roadsides of Oktibbeha County and feel what I felt as I painted. I am truly with my subject.

I want you to use your senses, of sight by looking at the painting itself, touching my painting, hear the birds and taste what might be cooking on the old stove in the kitchen.

If I go outside into the countryside of our spectacular landscapes in Oktibbeha County I shall then bring home the senses that I experienced so they will be forever captured on my canvas. Oct. 9, 1978 lives again just as I painted it years ago.

What a day I was about to experience as I began to paint a lovely old gentleman, Frank Gallagner, age 82. As I painted he told me stories of his life, I learned much from this country man.

I learned how he had lived his life and his philosophy of living in this house all of his life. He had seen his first car ride down this road, and he had seen his first airplane fly over. I became fascinated by his stories he told me.

Gallagner had been a logger. He had cut and hauled logs on those long trucks. He worked hard at his job as had his father before him, who was also a proud logger.

Suddenly I thought how perfect that my subject was still working with a piece of wood as he keep on whittling, touching and working with wood. Look at his pink cheeks, which indicate he had spent his life outdoors. Look closely at his old work shoes as they tell the story of his life. They are top black shoes laced up to the top.

Look at his faded flannel shirt with its many colors of blue squares. Find his two pockets, and look at his worn gray pants. See the old chair with a hint of the back of the old chair. His porch has wide planks, which were constructed of thrown away pieces that he salvaged from the sawmill to build this entire house. I caught the blade of his knife right before he whittled a final piece of the wood. It is a curved blade, and it is sharp. Find the piece of wood, held tightly so he won’t cut his other hand.

His hands are large and show the time as he worked as logger. Notice the shavings from the wood that he is whittling between his two feet. I kept the background simple to blend in with told porch floor.

The chair cast its own shadow as the sun danced across the old porch giving the planks character. Look at the lightest part of this painting, which is untouched canvas, right above his hands. I want your eyes to be drawn into his hands as they move.

I completed this painting and his portrait. I placed my name and the date at the bottom. I was exhausted after I packed up my supplies. I reached out to shake his hand, and then I invited him to come see me in Starkville soon. I promised him that I would return to visit him soon, too. I thanked him as I was leaving because he was a treasure to capture on my canvas.

Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at fc64@ms.metrocast.net.

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