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Painting in Color

Joe started drawing when he was very young. He drew horses, cartoons, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, airplanes, things he related to. He also liked drawing on walls and in coloring books. He wasn’t thinking of art as a career and never took classes or followed guidelines that someone has to declare him an artist – only the artist can make that decision. Art’s about positive energy. That’s why he hasn’t worried about sales and promotions. He’ll get to them pretty soon. He’s only sixty-eight.

His dad was in the military and Joe was born in Tulsa and they lived all over the world before ending up back in Tulsa. As a young black man graduating from high school fifty years ago, he considered football his way to escape. He was a slender running back with pretty good speed but not a sprinter. He just knew how to find openings and turn it on. He got a scholarship to a mid-major university and one season rushed for more than a thousand yards. That’s still top ten in school history. After college he tried out for the Canadian Football League and made the team but just before the season ended the team fired the coach and he was released.

Joe hadn’t studied very hard in college and had a low grade point average and needed lots of units to graduate. He went back to school and asked a counselor what it would take to get a degree in one year and he said twenty units per semester with a very high grade point average. Joe buckled down and did it. Then he became a chef. He can cook anything anywhere anytime. He moved to Los Angeles and worked all over there. At restaurants he learned to design menus and a lot of administrative stuff but wanted to make the food. It’s an art.

In the late seventies Joe started painting people and got more disciplined in the eighties. He has photos of his paintings online but most don’t have names. He’s got them written down somewhere. Look carefully at that long lean black woman. Her dress is also a white tulip and the space between her legs is a stem. Here’s a lady in a yellow turban and long red dress beginning below bare black shoulders. She’s smooth and relaxed as she moves along. This black man’s got his face between bars in jail, an appropriate subject these days. Here’s one of his favorites, a tribute to neighborhood mischief. While two kids kneel and plan what to do, their friend looks in a window. Is he watching a girl get out of the shower? We don’t know.

Joe switched to painting abstract works about fifteen years ago. He likes to make bright colors flow in many directions, evoking lots of emotions. How big are they? He hasn’t measured most of them yet. He needs to do that and make some frames. That takes a lot of time but he’s got to do it. No, he hasn’t painted on box canvases because they’re really expensive and hard to store. He doesn’t have much room. He’s back in Tulsa, living with his parents. The town’s all right. It’s not progressive like L.A. but it’s affordable, and he has time to paint.

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