From the You’re-Not-Going-to-Believe-this Files! And a Career First for Me!
It was my friend, Laura Powell. I imagined she was following up from an activity last Saturday that she helped organize: I plein air painted at a charity event on St. Simons Island and my unframed watercolor painting was auctioned off at the end of the evening.
“The dog ate your painting!”
It was 8:30 am and I slept in this morning. I was still a bit groggy from deep sleep. My voice gave me away.
“The people who bought your painting…their dog ate it.”
“Is this a joke?”
“That’s what I thought when I read the email….NO, it isn’t! …Lucy was too embarrassed to call you to break the news. The good news is that the people want to replace it; Can you paint another one? They’ll certainly pay you for it…”
“They’ll be in touch. Thanks for participating. It was fun.”
I laughed after I hung up the phone.
“What’s so funny?” my wife asked. I told her the story. Her first reaction was classic:
“What kind of dog was it?”
The charity benefit for Coastal Wildscapes was held at Musgrove Plantation on St. Simons Island. It is a beautiful property on more than 1,000 acres of picturesque coastal Georgia. The property is owned by the grandchildren of tobacco magnate, R. J. Reynolds. The focal point is a great house and its formal garden with majestic oaks and magnolias overlooking the marshes of Sea Island across the river. There are a handful of surrounding cottages and when I arrived a day early to scout for locations, the idea of holding a watercolor workshop there immediately came to mind. As I photographed the property, I met the property manager who was giving a young couple a tour for a possible wedding location. I mentioned I was interested in doing a workshop there.
“Sure, but the daily rate might be out of your price range,” she replied.
I felt a wave of self-conscious regret over my choice of paint-splattered shirt and worn out boat shoes.
“Oh yeah, like how much?”
“It starts at $20,000 per day and that’s without access to the great house,” she smiled.
A quick mathematical calculation led me to a maximum 20 people at $1,000 per day just to cover sleeping arrangements for a Robert Leedy Watercolor Workshop in a beautiful place. “You’re not quite there, Robert,” I consoled myself.
“No, you’re right,” I smiled back, “I was looking for something a little less expensive.”
I spent Friday night at a good friend’s house on the Island and returned early in the afternoon to get a good head start on my plein air painting. It would need to be finished by 6:30 that evening for a live auction.
I chose a nice view of an oak canopy, the pool house and the marsh in the background. I set up my easel and began painting. At one point, I snuck into the great house’s bathroom and slipped into a dress shirt, slacks and a blazer and returned to my outdoor stool as if I always paint dressed like this. I only hoped my blazer didn’t dip into my palette as my jeans had earlier…
The $100-per-plate guests for the sold out event began arriving at 4:30. I was well into my painting though it was – as we say in the industry – “f_ _king bombing.” It was a disaster. There was no way I was going to salvage it – much less finish it. I seriously considered packing up and leaving. I announced this scenario to Laura and she kindly talked me out of it. She loved the painting and somehow didn’t see the problems I did.
As happens often with my paintings, the watercolor experienced a brief ugly duckling stage until it slowly pulled together. “You just have to maintain your faith,” I told myself.
I painted, sipped wine, and talked with many of the guests who stopped to watch me paint. One couple mentioned their daughter was married here. “It’s a very sentimental place for me,” the woman said, “we will probably bid on your painting.” I loved the husband’s response:
“Yeah, I’m sure the painting will be a better deal than the wedding bill was.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” I winked back.
It was a nice evening. The great house was beautifully decorated and the guests enjoyed good food, drink and live music. And, of course, there was great art! My painting finally came up for auction and there was a brisk battle over it before a final, winning bid. It was the “wedding” couple and it turns out she is a local interior designer. She told me she would introduce me to some of the better local galleries.
I always keep my plein air gear in several L.L. Bean canvas tote bags. I also have an extended version grouping of items that I don’t always need – like sunscreen, bug spray, corkscrew, sunglass readers, and a baseball cap with LED lights in the visor. Perhaps I should add my blazer, dress shirt and dress slacks?
It’s a shame the painting was destroyed. I am a bit amused at the story and it’s definitely a first for me. I had paintings destroyed in hurricanes and almost had one stolen out of a shipping container in Venezuela (friends were in the process of moving there) but I’ve never had the experience of a dog eating one of my paintings….
Right after Laura called, my friend and retired UNF Art Professor, Paul Ladnier, called. I told him the story. “I’ve heard that line a million times,” he laughed, “but this is the only time it turned out to be true.”
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You’re currently reading “From the You’re-Not-Going-to-Believe-this Files! And a Career First for Me!,” an entry on Robert Leedy Watercolors
- March 12, 2015 / 6:05 pm
- Art, Artists, Dogs, Leedy Artwork, Painters, Painting, Plein Air Painting, Watercolor, Watercolour