I received a telephone call last night, December 3, 2009, from Martha and Bob Thomas who currently divide their time between Warrenton, Virginia and Ramseur, North Carolina. The call prompts this reflection on how relationships can be created when buying art.
It was a city park in Asheboro, North Carolina where I first met Martha and Bob Thomas. It was spring and the city was sponsoring an art fair to which I had come to sell my paintings in a make-shift booth set up beside my pickup truck. Having just completed an Master of Fine Arts degree in painting at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, located about 30 miles up Highway 220 from Asheboro, I was anxiously seeking any venue for sales of my work to fulfill a goal of being a painter who survives solely from those sales.
When Martha and Bob strolled by they looked at the paintings to see bucolic landscapes of North Carolina's Piedmont region displayed alongside exotic images of Morocco. I think the anomaly of seeing such disparate images in this setting stirred their curiosity. They stopped and we struck up a conversation.
They had been to Morocco back in the early 70's. I was living there at that time. I was a teacher of Art, English, and Humanities at the Kenitra American High School, a USDESEA school for dependent children of diplomatic and military personnel from the United States. The paintings they were seeing were the result of experiences I had had there. They were a young couple then living in Madrid, Spain where Bob was deployed as a dentist on the nearby U. S. Air Force Base in Torrejon. Seeing the images of Morocco brought back their memories of that exotic visit and of the times they shared exploring new cultures and European living. Our conversations about our shared experiences as young folks from rural backgrounds thrown into the big world bonded us thoroughly.
So, this meeting with Martha and Bob would probably have been in 1975, give or take a year. The particulars of the art show are very vague in my memory well; however, the Thomases have stuck by me as collectors ever since our first meeting. They purchased that day a 10 x 13 inch oil on paper entitled Forest Lawn Park 3. They paid $25.00. Little did they or I know then that they would become one of my most devoted collectors.
In the ensuring years, I remained determined to be a painter and survive from the sales of my work. At my modest Greensboro studio, I developed a Studio Exhibition format whereby I could sell directly to collectors two or three times a year without benefit of the gallery system, which in those days--and even today--makes it difficult to earn a living solely off those sales. I had had the good sense to keep accurate records early of all paintings created. I used 3 x 5 index cards to record each painting with an inventory number thereby creating an Object File. Concurrently, I used the same method to create a Collectors File, which formed the basis of the mailing list for these Studio Exhibitions.
Martha and Bob Thomas reconnected with me again around 1979 when they responded to one of my Studio Exhibition invitations. From then and up to when I moved to New Mexico in the mid-90's, they were invited to over 30 exhibitions, attended at least 10 showings, and purchased over 15 paintings, ranging in subject matter from more North Carolina landscapes (their Graham Farm Near Wilmington 36, an oil on paper measuring 36 x 44 inches is a spectacular piece), six paintings based on my experiences on Samos Island, Greece, and three New Mexico landscapes.
With this summarized background of my relationship with Martha and Bob, I want to show the reader how the works of a painter eventually are intertwined with the person who purchases them. The painter becomes a personal friend and the paintings displayed on the walls of the collectors' homes remind them everyday of the artist, the shared experiences in the painting which prompted the purchase in the first place, the intimate conversations of mutual concerns, and the general welfare of the artist.
Such was the telephone call last night. Bob, for whatever reason, had looked at my website and read the Blog where I relayed the experience of the retina problems I've had starting in July. he and Martha were immediately concerned about me and called to see how I was faring. We conversed for quite a while, getting caught up on our respective lives with their telling me that their thoughts and prayers were with me as I sought resolution of this loss of vision. Upon concluding our conversation and hanging up the phone, I was very still, contemplative, and deeply touched that I meant so much to these two wonderful and caring persons who first encountered me and my dream of being a painter on a flat piece of park land 34 years ago in Asheboro, North Carolina.