Years ago, one morning with my car packed with my art supplies I turned the key to head somewhere searching for a face, place and everything else to capture on my canvas to be a memory to keep in my heart. I was hoping to find something extraordinary outside Starkville. I had no clue what I might find at the end of my rainbow creation dream that day. I had a warm feeling inside my body that something fun was at the end.
One of my favorite spots to rediscover myself is the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. As I made my down Oktoc Road I turned, and my eyes glanced to the back seat and all those supplies piled with my canvas on top. Everything I needed to be there was there, and I whispered, “Did I forget anything?” Suddenly I imagined that I saw reddish/brown cane fishing pole stuck among the brushes. A fishing pole, did I really bring it along? I said, “Oh, Carole, it’s just your artistic imagination.” I thought again, “Maybe I should go fishing instead of painting?”
I kept driving, happy as please. As I got further out on Oktoc past MSU, I felt calm. I sipped in the quiet beauty of the farm pastures and a few cows grazing as well as a crow flying over. I spotted Mr. Warren Oakley’s tall silos in the distance as if they represented past monuments and vivid reminders of his wonderful dairy farm. I tried to see his milk cows grazing, but they were not visible, just vague, fond memories instead.
I stopped and made a right headed toward the refuge. As you make another turn at the end of this road you enter what I call the sacred soil of the refuge. There is a peace that comes over you. I wished that this stretch of road would never end, but then it ends, and you can spot the edge of Bluff Lake. I saw a duck diving for fish, a turtle on a log sunning and a fish jumping out of the water. I spotted the big eyes and nostrils of an alligator peeping up from the water. I thought, “Is this heaven on earth?”
I kept slowly searching and driving along until I approached the spillway. There is a sort of “holding pond” as I call it right beside the flowing spillway. All of a sudden to the left of the road were two faces that were begging to be painted. I turned my head, glanced at my imaginary fishing pole and said, “It’s time to stop and sit a spell, wait and watch my cork bob because I’m about to catch two fish at once.”
I’d found two gentlemen fishing by the spillway. I’d hit the jackpot. I said, “Hello, I’m Carole McReynolds Davis from Starkville. I am an artist out painting today. May I paint y’all’s portraits? I won’t disturb your fishing, and I want you both to keep doing your thing like I’m not here.” With no hesitation the older gentleman said, “Yes, ma’am, we’ll be happy to have you join us. Come on down.”
I was so excited and inspired that I could hardly unpack my stuff. When the inspiration slam-dunks you as an artist, you feel the creative juices churning inside and enter another world. You could say an artist is on a high – high on inspiration and life. It’s like sweet, soft music, and your heart skips a beat. You can hardly wait to get started as if the moment will suddenly leave and the sunshine will disappear. You quickly begin sketching. You finally settle down and see the details right before you. I had found two living faces, a place called the spillway and everything else surrounding their world of fishing. I had it all to capture in one big brush stroke. I was in my bubble world, just painting.
Who would be my two faces? I’d never seen them before, and I never saw them again. Were they angels from heaven? To me they were my angels for a few split seconds, and they breathed on my canvas forever. What were their names? On the bottom of my canvas were written their names. Mr. John Young was down visiting from St. Louis, Mo., and he was 81 years old.
We’ll let this painting speak to each of us. The entire painting flows beautifully just as the spillway pond gently rolls on its way back into the woods. It is such a sweet landscape. This is a spontaneous, casual painting. All three are mixed in the paint. It was my greatest pleasure to share moments with two perfect strangers for a few hours and never see them again.
Now feel with me this particular painting as we spontaneously feel what the fisherman feel. They just came out to the spillway freely, without a care in the world today. Look how gracefully, naturally and unconstrained Henry is sitting in his old broken down fold up chair, and John is standing so laid back. I bet they casually decided one moment before coming to go and fish today. It was an unpredictable decision they must have made without a plan in mind.
Let’s look at how free they seem to be. Time means nothing as they seem to have sufficient time in the rest of their lives to enjoy this day outside fishing. They are not in any haste as they enjoy a wonderful, beautiful day together.
The 20X30” canvas blends well. It is a musical painting. Let’s read this canvas from the bottom to the top. We’ll start from left to the right. We’ll begin from the foreground going to the background. The first thing we see are the three reddish/brown cane fishing poles stuck in the side of the sandy dirt on the bank of the pond. Look at the three branches with forks like a Y that they are resting each pole into so they don’t even have to hold their poles. This looks like they are too lazy to hold their own fishing poles themselves, but I think this was creative on their part so they can sit back, relax and wait for a big fish to nibble off their baited hook. They will then be ready to pull up the cork as it begins to bop with their fish caught. Find the fourth pole. It is merely a red reflection in the water of the second pole. Now look at the lime green sardine can near Henry’s boot. Take a good look at Henry’s knee high reddish/brown boots. He has crossed his legs in such a relaxed manner. Spot the Gold Bond near his legs. The tops of his legs are resting on the can. This can gives him support to the upper part of his legs to keep him comfortable. Spot the bright yellow small can under his front leg. Look at his dress shirt as the morning shadows have been picked up as making the shirt appear like pastel colors within the faded, wrinkled white shirt. His arm is holding on to the back of the chair, and his hand is touching the seat. See his one pink big thumb turned upwards. His face tells his story of his 81 long years of life. He has a sweet expression in his eyes and a half smile on his lips. His straw hat with one yellow feather says Henry is a quite a sporty gentleman who loves to dress up and loves his day of fishing. Look at his big blue and white umbrella that he shares with John as he is peeping out from under the umbrella.
Let’s turn our eyes to John Young who is the younger of the gentlemen. He is standing tall and looks thin and sleek in his knee-high black rubber boots. Find the two orange labels at the top of the boots. John has on his faded blue jean overalls with one of his thumbs sticking out of the back pocket. He has on two shirts. One is white and the other is a darker long-sleeved blue jean shirt. He is sporting a dark blue jean cap with a label on the bill. He is intently looking to see if the three poles are moving at all and if there might be a fish caught on the hook. He is carefully waiting.
Look at all the colors of the lake. See the blues, purples, yellows, lime greens, bright and dark greens, pinks, browns and rust colors. Look quickly at how the various blues of the water, the blue and white oversized umbrella and the blue jean shirt and hat of John’s ties the painting together. Glance at all the yellows of the foreground and the background of the ground that the fishermen are standing on mixed with the touch of yellow mingling with the scattered yellow wildflowers in the background. All the greens, yellows and rusts are blending into the dark greens and sage browns of the grass. The dark green, almost black, frames the top of the painting and encloses the gentlemen into a circle of friendship. I hope that day I was a part of their circle.
I caught and reeled in two wonderful gentleman whom I never forgot because I captured and re-discovered them as well as myself through my own pencils and brushes mixed with lots of paints then placed on my canvas to share with you now, John Young, age 76, and Henry Matt Miller, age 81, spontaneously and casually.