Wandering Down the Road of Life
I’ve heard it said that your first memories can shape the rest of your life. It seems that mine have done just that. The earliest memory that I can place is looking out the window of my parents’ old Plymouth at the tree-lined river we were following on our way to my Grandpa Perry’s house. Now, here I am, fifty-some years later, sitting on my front porch looking at the same Little Arkansas River, just eight blocks away from that quaint, old Craftsman bungalow that housed my Granddad and his collection of Prairie Printmaker prints. I am now a printmaker myself, illustrating and writing about driving those tree-lined country roads. My wife and I live in a 1918 home decorated in the Craftsman style with that cherished Prairie Printmaker collection on the walls.
It’s like my whole life has been shaped by those early days. Each summer we would load up the family station wagon with camping gear, buy our new vacation hats and head out for Colorado or some other distant location to see how far my Dad could drive and how much we could see in two weeks. Every vacation had its theme. Sometimes the theme would be to identify rock varieties. Sometimes we would try to name the wildflowers growing along the edge of the fields by the roadside tables where we would stop for our pimento cheese-spread sandwiches or figure out how to tell a Spruce from a Fir tree. No matter what the theme was for the trip, we would stop to read each and every historical marker along the way. You see, my Dad, the newspaper journalist and editorial writer, thought that vacations should be educational as well as fun.
Growing up in the days before the Interstate Highways, we would drive the two-lane roads, cruising through town after town, stopping often and seeing the land as diverse and always changing. Each town and county had its own character. Sitting in the back seat of the car, with no electronic diversions, I would look out the window and watch the landscape change. Now, as an adult, I spend my time driving the backroads of the country, making a life out of illustrating and interpreting the subtle variations of the scenic countryside. I think my Dad would be proud!
So here I am, the grandson of an art lover and print collector, the son of a newspaper writer and a student of the esthetic landscape, trying to define my own life and produce something that says who I am.
I fell in love with the Flint Hills while making my many trips back and forth to Kansas State University in Manhattan from Wichita. During the last year of my Landscape Architecture studies, we were able to create our own senior project. Mine became a character study of the Flint Hills, culminating in a self-designed book of sketches and writings, entitled “Limestone, Oak and Bluestem”, which was published by the Kansas Department of Economic Development in 1972. Now, after 39 years of landscape architecture, art fairs, illustrating, writing and driving backroads, I have decided to return to my roots with a book about my favorite part of the country.
I am in production of a graphic essay that expresses the thoughts and emotions experienced on some of my many wanderings in the Kansas Flint Hills. It will be illustrated with hand-colored photo-polymer gravure and relief prints, as well as some fun, little pen and inks.
I will be previewing some of the storylines in this journal through the summer. I plan to have the book and limited editions of the original Broadsides, prepared as art for the book, available in my Backroads Gallery and in bookstores and gift shops by September. Stay tuned! I am hoping that this project will define Backroads Press and the grown up version of that little guy looking out the window at the old, scenic river.