Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All in Good Time

NC Wyeth's title page illustration from The Boy's King Arthur

After a weekend where I just couldn’t make the words fit and every piece I started was unfinishable--not to mention unreadable--what a pleasure it was to break out of my slump today. Now if my beloved Red Sox could do the same…**deep sigh**

As is well documented here, I love the digging and research involved in a good story. I could sit (and let’s be honest, I have done) locked up in an archive with old newspapers, documents and books and be completely happy. While I’ll admit to a wandering eye whilst browsing old newspapers in particular, I’m very content settling into the written records of our collected past. (I am slightly less inclined towards actual person-to-person interviews, but I'm getting over that!) Happily, today's breakthrough was the result not of my nose being buried in a bound volume of land use documents or property transactions, but rather because of a delightful conversation I had over the telephone.

It should be noted here that I’m not generally a big fan of the phone these days, I’d rather take care of most of my work via email, especially when it comes to people whom I don’t know all that well. Email is efficient and you needn’t worry about catching someone at a bad time or sounding over/under enthusiastic--business can be taken care of and both parties get their needs and positions heard.

To every rule or preference, though, there is an exception. In my previous blog entry I wrote about finding a relative of an artist I’d been researching, George E. Porter. The artist’s niece, who has been wonderfully helpful, was kind enough to also put me in touch with his widow who lives in Pennsylvania.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have two productive and utterly enjoyable discussions with this witty and charming woman. She’s lived an incredibly interesting life in her own right and her pride in her late husband’s art is evident as she speaks of his work, commissions, and catalogue. During our chat today we discussed the Society of Illustrators which is located on E 63rd Street in New York City. I shared with her that I’ve grown up with a father who has always had the utmost respect for illustrators, especially when it came to those featured in his favorite childhood books--artists like Howard Pyle and NC Wyeth--and how he’d shared that with me. (I’m one of those people who will argue passionately for holding illustrators and commercial artists in high esteem.) As we spoke, I told her I’d not been in the Society’s museum (though I’d lived on E 63rd Street for a time and tried in vain to attend an exhibit there once) but I’d admired many of its artists. She proceeded to tell me that an original oil painting that George Porter had done hung (and maybe still hangs) in one of the lobbies. I literally laughed out loud at the possible what ifs.

If I had made it to that show I’d missed at the Society in the late 90s, and seen the Porter painting, would I have made the connection? I’d like to think I would have, and that maybe I’d have pulled a staffer aside and found out more information on him then rather than now. His work is compelling and I imagine I’d have been naturally drawn to it, but who can say?

Silly to look back, of course, at roads not taken and connections missed, but it’s amusing to think of the random possibilities--the hits and misses--that we encounter on a daily basis. The truth is that even if I had touched all those bases back then, I wouldn’t have been motivated to write about it. I was too busy finessing and rearranging the words of others to even consider much of my own work at that time, so maybe, on occasion, we’re also given the chance to connect the right dots at the right time--we get the gifts when we’re ready to receive and make the best use of them.

I’m not exactly sure where all this dot connecting will lead, but I am LOVING the journey thus far. What I do know is that I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to correspond with and speak to people who knew and loved George E. Porter--and his work, obviously--and are willing to share that with me. I have a lunch date for when I next find myself in the area of West Chester, Pennsylvania--one appointment I’m very much looking forward to keeping.

No comments: