Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Secrets of “Coasting Through Kennywood”

People ask me a lot of different questions about my art, but the one I get the most is "Which one of your paintings is your favorite?"

In fact, I do have a favorite… one very special painting in my own private collection that will never be for sale!  It’s called “Coasting Through Kennywood.” Why is it the one piece that means the most to me?  Because there are three personal stories related to that painting that make it the one that is closest to my heart.
  • Back in 1997, I’d been painting Kennywood for three years.  After two years at the Grand Victorian Festival, admiring the view from my tent on the corner by the bridge, I decided my next Kennywood subject would be painting the Jack Rabbit and the Racer coasters from a viewpoint across the lake.

    I loved that view because once upon a time, Tom and I stood there on that bridge in the summer of 1977 on our first real Pittsburgh date.  As we looked into each others’ eyes, I told him I’d had dreams about us getting engaged and married.  In one dream, the engagement ring was a gaudy plastic ring from a bubblegum machine!  In the other dream, we tried to get married at a Justice of the Peace, but a couple coming out suggested we go to a church because they felt that being married by a judge was so impersonal.

    Tom just gave me an odd look, and without saying a word, walked away. I was crushed!  Obviously my hints didn’t work… did I blow it?  Later he told me that he was actually trying to get up the guts to ask me to marry him, and I just surprised him a bit!  (Of course, there was a happy ending!  He was able to get the courage to ask me later – about five minutes before my flight back to Philadelphia the next day!   :)
  • Another fun story about this painting is that when I sketched it out, I drew the old-style aluminum boats, as those were the ones used back when we were dating.  The number 22 on the front-and-center rowboat is also very significant to us.  At that time, ours was a long-distance romance, and Tom was visiting me in New Hope, PA, where I was working on an art project.  One day we visited a little ice-cream shop we found in the woods, and when Tom received his change, we were shocked to see the number “22” written on the dollar bill.

    Why was that so surprising?  At age 20, Tom sold shoes back home at South Hills Village, and his sales number was 22. He had a habit of writing “22” on the bills he earned from sales on any given night.  Somehow this bill had miraculously found its way back into his hands all the way on the other side of the state at a little ice cream shop in the woods on our very first date!  So that’s why I immortalized #22 on one of the boats in my painting.
  • The third story is about the people in the painting.  As I often do, I put some of my favorite people in this painting.  The folks in boat #22 are best friends and actually modeled for me on a picnic bench in their backyard with an old broom and a broken hoe for oars.  Also, Tom and the girls are front right – it may not be easy to recognize them, but I did the best I could, considering the small size!

I hope you enjoyed my story!  We’re down to the wire as I close down my studio to pack for our move.  But did I mention that I’m still painting?  I may even have something new to show you next week!

Best to you,


P.S. – For the first time in 19 years, I will NOT be at Kennywood's Celebrate America next month.  Unfortunately, the first day of the show, July 1st, is our Moving Day.  

I will, however, be appearing at the Westmoreland County Arts and Heritage Festival (aka Twin Lakes) on July 3rd through 6th from 11 to 8 pm.  Stop by and see me at Booth #94!  I promise I’ll have lots of new stuff to show you!