Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Third Eye

In the first post I wrote about Eyes, I mentioned I went to the Berkeley Sidewalk Art Show. Walter Keane and his family were across the street from where I was drawing. I had never heard of him so I crossed the street to see what they were doing. I was interested in how he could be successful in portraiture when he enlarged the eyes to such an extent.
 It turned out he was a very good friend of the man who owned the shoe store in Danville and so news of his success came readily to us and we all enjoyed his fame.

However, his fame was a flash in the pan because soon his name became tainted by the stories of his wife being the one who actually painted the portraits.

Many years later, I read in the newspaper that there was going to be a sidewalk show in Walnut Creek and they asked me to submit a painting for the show. I didn't have one available so I took an old painting of a beautiful girl and changed her to very small and insignificant with pupils as small as raisins. I signed it Naek Retlaw. To my surprise, the painting was accepted. None of the jurors were suspicious and, since I didn't want the painting back, I hadn't put my proper name.

Next blog will be called The Nose.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More Eyes

About 30 years ago, Sam and I took a cruise through Mexico as if we were on a ship moving through foreign waters only we were traveling on land on a train. An unforgettable trip. To explain a little. A man in San Francisco loved railroad cars and since he had a lot of money he bought a railroad car like you would buy a pound of sugar. Finally his mother said, you now have at least 10 fabulous railroad cars and from now instead of buying railroad cars you have to earn money with the cars you now have. And so he arranged the trip to Mexico.

He hired a famous chef from San Francisco and had a crew of well-known train people and he had made arrangements with the Mexican government to cruise on their tracks. We had American locomotive until El Paso. We crossed the border and from then on we had to have a Mexican locomotive or simply get attached to trains running regularly.

The train went from El Paso to the million dollar beaches on the west coast of Mexico where we stopped for one night. Then we went to Mexico City and stopped and checked into hotels and the train waited for us at the station. Then we continued to the east coast --the Yuccan and the north coast Vera Cruz and eventually back across the border. But… what happened on this trip was truly excited.

We had to get off the main track whenever we were in competition with a local scheduled Mexican train and we often sat on a spur for hours and hours and hours. Early on, when we were sitting on a spur, I decided I would I would see what I could find as an adventure. I got my sketch pad, sat on the steps of the train and waited. All of a sudden, a boy about 10 appeared whistling on his through a forest and in my broken Spanish, I asked him if he would like a portrait of himself. When I was finished I tore  off the sketch and handed it to him to give to his mother. In about 5 minutes he retuned with his mother, his brothers and about ten more buddies his age.

Before we left there was a sea of people waiting their turn. One of the waiters from the train was behind me and if anyone got out of line, he would say one word I didn't understand and everyone waited patiently. I'll always remember the sea of black eyes waiting and hoping to have their faces sketched before the train left.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eyes I Have Known

A couple of months after my first painting lesson, I signed up to do quick sketches outdoors in the Berkeley Sidewalk Show. It was my first public affair and I had to leave home at the crack of dawn, get into Berkeley, find my assigned place on the sidewalk, unload the car and then park it.

When I was ready, there were very few people walking by. I saw a little old lady with little white gloves and a little hat on her head with little flowers or feathers on top. She looked interested so I asked her if she would sit down so I could practice before people came. I assured her it wouldn't cost her anything.

So she sat down and I started drawing her. When I got to the hat, I was already finished with her face, so I said you may get up and move around because I'm just going to do the white things on top of your hat. She got up and stood behind me so see what I was doing. I heard her blow her nose behind me. Then I head her sobbing.

I turned.

"Why are you crying?" I asked, worried she didn't like what she saw.

"The eyes look exactly like my father's eyes."

"Did you look like your father?"

"Not at all."

It was moving experience for both of us.