Today I got in the groove painting the first time since starting a month or so ago. Before, I was painting mountain musicians on used wood. I liked that, but after a certain point, wood gets scarce. Now I want to paint mountain musicians on canvas. Working on Pine Swamp fiddler, Howard Joines. His face came together for me today. The likeness I'm after isn't far away. I'm giving him a 5 o'clock shadow primarily to show he's a working man playing old-time music, not somebody with a violin chair in a symphony. The shirt, white, could be either. There was a time I was thinking it looked more like Heifitz, the violinist, than Joines the fiddler. By now, I have him at least looking like he could be a Joines.
The fiddle is the main concern from here on, and the shirt and fingers. The fingers are ok. The fiddle takes as much attention as a face. I like to build colors on top of colors. It seems to me a variety of colors on top of each other make a more luminous finish coat. By the time it's finished, I want you to hear the fiddle when you see it. The fiddle is a little bit off, but I like it. I like leaving something a little bit off. Gives it life. I read somewhere long ago that in Islamic art, like architecture, mosaics, the geometric designs they use, the tradition is to leave a flaw in everything. The flaw is there for a kind of signature that this is a creation of the human mind, therefore imperfect before God, as we are. I like that, so I don't worry over some flaws. I'm not after perfection, but a feeling. I want it not just to look like the subject, but to be the subject. I want it to feel like his presence. I've never met Howard, but I know a lot of his kin. Jr was his nephew.
Working toward a series of musicians of primarily Alleghany County and central Blue Ridge. In my way of seeing, these musicians are the truly important people, when it comes down to who's important. They carry a tradition that goes back all the way across the ocean and way back in time. They keep it alive. Old-time is the original American music, the root out of which all American musics grew. This region of the Appalachians is a fountain of traditional music. All up and down the mountains is, but the central Blue Ridge got the name and attention from Bristol where The Carter Family, The Stonemans and Jimmy Rogers made the first country music recordings in I think 1927. Later, the Stanley Brothers started with a job at the Bristol station playing at lunch hour. One of these days soon I'm getting in the Catfish and driving to Bristol to see the museum there. Might drive to Dickenson County, Virginia, to the Ralph Stanley Museum another day. I want to get over to MtAiry to WPAQ to go in and get acquainted. It's the model for my radio show. I'd love to see WCOK play all mountain music. It does, considering Sue is playing what the listeners want, mountain music.
Sue invited people to call and tell her what kind of music they wanted to hear and wrote it all down. Country, bluegrass, regional. And that's what she plays. People are listening to the station again. Advertisers are coming back. Sue is looking at getting new equipment to replace things like cd players and such. She is getting that place on its feet. The guys spent the last 18 years running off advertisers and listeners, then took all the station's country cds over that period of time, plus Rhonda Vincent. One of them liked Dolly Parton and Rhonda Vincent passionately. It wasn't because Rhonda is bluegrass, but because she looks like a mannequin. She looks so much like a mannequin he can bear the bluegrass for the look.
Sue has already brought the station back. I remember the day or 2 when the station had nobody there, because the silly boys left the same day and that was that. End of station. The station manager had a job at WBRF in Galax and didn't get over here much. He found Sue at church, a woman out of a job looking for one. Never been in a radio station. He took her to the station and showed her everything in one morning. Next day she was on her own to figure everything out. And she did. She's done figured everything out and has it in order so she can put her hand on it in a hurry. She likes to fulfill requests if the song is in the station. Sue is committed to the station. It is her own. She has created it and it's working. It makes me happy every Saturday morning when I go in there and see Sue. It's like the captain is on deck, all is well with the ship. In this time when conscientious is little more than a word that's hard to spell, Sue stands out.
When the awards people in Sparta are handing out awards for outstanding contributions to the community (I don't know that any such award has ever been given), I elect Sue for someone who saved WCOK for the county. She has, in fact, become the voice of Alleghany County. She's a good one too. She cares 100%. And she doesn't do anything half way. She dives into whatever it is she's doing and she goes the whole hog. She wants to put together a radio station that serves the community, and she has done it.
It's almost back to where it was when Arnold Clodfelter, Judy Halsey, Nelson Harrell and Ron Brown were at the station, and Jeff Michael had live bands every Saturday morning perform for an hour. It's that show I'm replacing with mine. I tried having live music in the beginning, but I am not inside the music world enough to be getting bands to come in on Saturday mornings. I'd rather play their cds. Everybody makes cds now. They can be made at home with a computer. And I love playing the music to the listeners. I want every show to be entertaining to the max.
People who love old-time and bluegrass, mountain music, are the people I play for. They've become the people I paint for now. I don't paint for galleries. I want to paint for the people in my world in the county. I want to honor the people of the county painting their musicians in the same way I honor them by playing their music. I have to say I feel a certain fulfillment, that I've done something worth while, spent the later years of my life honoring the people of the mountains, saying, in effect: This is you and this is good.