It was Sept. 26, 1971 as my car headed towards Longview. I was cruising and looking for a face, a place and everything else to paint on that glorious day. Earlier, I had phoned my old baby nurse, Catherine Yeates, and told her I would pick her up so she could baby-sit Little Frank for a few hours. We all loved Catherine, and she was a sweet and dear part of our family. I told her that I would be back home as soon as I finished my painting.
I had all my art supplies rattling around in the back seat, but I did not have a clue about what would call out to me that day. I thought to myself that every day we live life to its fullest is in a way a blank canvas the minute our eyes open to each new wonderful day ahead of us. We all make decisions each day to turn a pure white canvas into our own colorful world of very meaningful, bright and beautiful colors. You may be a musician, singer, dancer, writer or a visual artist. We all — in our own way — hopefully share our lives and talents with others.
I discovered an old country side street winding down a rural road. All of a sudden I spotted all three — a face, a place and everything else — cruising along on a three wheel old bright blue bicycle. There he was just merely bumping over the now abandoned railroad track.
I stopped and got out of my car and said, “Hello, I am Carole McReynolds Davis from up the road in Starkville and I am an artist. I want to paint your portrait today."
"Will you allow me to do so,” I asked.
He said yes and I now had my whole world in my hands and finger tips. I was so excited that I could hardly unpack all my needed art supplies: red portable easel, big painting table, 90 different tubes of paint, canvas, pop-up umbrella, and my red director's chair. Inspiration is being ecstatic about the opportunity to feel rapture and have exalted delight.
I said, “Tell me your name.”
He said, “I'm Warren Doc Bell, and my daddy is Gray Bell, and we live a little East of Longview. I'm out just riding my bike today.”
Then I said, “Doc will you just stay just like you are on our bike for a little while?”
Doc said, “I'll be happy to do this for you, Miss Carole.”
I asked, “What is your birthday day and year you born?”
He said, "Dec. 4, 1921.”
Look at the painting as if it is Doc's biography. See the blue, sunny sky as if the clouds are really like whipped cream mixed into the almost a navy and cobalt blues to the far left hand side of the top of the canvas. Find the touches of light purple sky and see the soft lime greens, bright and darker forest green colors. See the hint of a Mississippi forest in the far distance.
Look at the dark, tall green grass and weeds as if they are nestling Doc Bell into the landscape and the foliage on the other side of the railroad track. It was so wonderful to catch him making his way that day as he was just about to crossover the old railroad track. I caught the one split second of those wheels just about to make their way over the last metal track.
Doc's body and bike are the most important things about this painting. Look to your left and right as we now really get to know and love Doc. Find the dark red, wine colored flag. His metal horn is turned upside down, one of his mirrors is attached to the flag pole and his left hand holds so tightly to the left hand bar.
Look at Doc's pleasant, determined facial expression which gives a feeling that says he knows who he is and where he is going today. I love his dark brown felt snappy looking Fedora with the black band around the middle of it. His thick black rimmed glasses are to die for. Now really look at his lips as if he has a half smile of determination that he can conquer the world today.
His lighter brown suit coat looks snappy. He likes to fashionably dress-up, and look very nice on his bike ride today. See his faded light blue jeans on his legs, and find the same red, wine colored bands around the bottom of his jeans. His white tennis shoes look very comfortable and great shoes to have on to ride a bike.
Look at the very blue bike which almost looks like it use to be a cobalt blue just like the sky above him. The tires look a little worn from riding up and down the railroad tracks, the puddles, and the rocks down on the country roads of Longview. I only wish the old bike wheels could talk and tell us everywhere Doc has been in Oktibbeha County. Those three wheels are almost frayed and worn out.
See the tall metal stick holding up a flag, swirling and moving with every movement of his peddling. The flag says hello and goodbye to those he passes.
Now look back and see that the old Longview railroad track gives such stability to this entire painting. It gives a solid feeling of security to Doc as he crosses the train.
I just happened to spot a very sweet human being peddling along his way in life on a sunny, beautiful day in September. I was inspired to paint that one moment in his life and in my own life. My canvas came alive with a face, a body, and a place in a landscape of a rural community.
I thought it was about time to head back home to see about my five year old son and to see if Catherine Yeates was okay with her kindness and sweetness to be baby-sitting him for these hours while I as out painting. I walked over, gently hugged and then thanked Warren Doc Bell, a small gentleman with a great, big heart.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .