Into campsite just west of Galena IL by about 8pm, able to set up tent in the virtual dark; did not set up canopy, nor air mattress, in the interest of time, but rather slept on the ground and did fine. Awoke little after 5am and to downtown Galena I went. What a marvelous, historic town – apparently site of Grant’s presidential headquarters – the town established in 1826. Wonderfully hilly and spectacular architecture.
Began setting up easel at Main Street and Washington, where a cobblestone driveway ambles up the hillside, a church and steeple atop the hill. As I set up, two trucks pull up near and workers pile out, unloading gear including a large earth-mover. My idyllic scene is suddenly a construction site, ugh. But I decided to proceed, turns out they were ineffectual obstructing me from seeing what I needed to see. Painting Number One complete, approximately two and a half hours, not a bad little painting. The restaurant VinnyVanucci’s is tucked into the left corner, the church and steeple in the upper right.
Coffee to go from the Golden Hen Café across the street. Breakfast at about 10am, a terrific Florentine Benedict. My lovely server, Janice, seemingly in her 60’s, maybe seventies, also got me my coffee around 6am – she was kind enough during a cigarette break to come over and see how the painting was progressing.
A friendly group of three tourists had stopped and hovered for a time, inquiring a business card. I gave them a postcard as well, the front of which is “The Bull Fighter” 72x48” – it’s Big – and has a companion piece, “The Flamenco Dancer” also 72x48”. The gentleman says, “Oh, you’re better than Picasso," to which I laughed. He says, “I mean, c’mon, I can do what he did, heck, my granddaughter can do what he did." And, of course, when they were approaching, one of the ladies had proffered the inevitable, “yeah, I could never do that, I can barely make stick figures.”
If you paint out of doors where the general populace can get up close and personal, almost invariably it will be stated at least once daily and before even saying hello, “I used to paint,” or “my aunt was a painter” etc. Much the same as an actor is often asked, innocently enough, “how do you remember all those lines?” (more frequently when the actor is doing Shakespeare).
It reminds me of a time last summer, I was painting in what we call ‘Wicker Park Park’, Chicago, a young kid saunters up to me, wearing the hip-hop obligatory white hat jauntily cocked sideways, white pants, shorts and sneakers, laces untied, gold chain, says, “hey man, cool. I’m an artist too.” I say, “yeah? cool.” He says, “yeah, I paint buildings here in da’ hood.”
I just smiled as I knew that our building, an historic arts building at North Av/Damen/Milwaukee Avenue, had been tagged recently and management had posted on the front door photos of the enactment caught on video surveillance, with a caption "We've got our eyes on You." Doubly funny to me, I thought, great, what if the culprit can’t read.