Posts Tagged ‘painter’

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 3, 2013
'It's a clear cut case of demonic possession', thinks Ralph.

‘It’s a clear cut case of demonic possession’, thinks Ralph.

…and Squirellier

(Episode 54)

 

  As Leland and Agent Hailey settled back with their drinks, Ralph began.

“Good evening.”  Ralph gave a hesitant smile.

“Good evening, Ralph!”  Someone from the back called, to a titter of laughter.

Ralph nodded.  “I hope so,” he began tentatively.

“Just show us the painting!”  That someone called again.

“Shut up!”   Someone else called.

The commissioned painting was hung directly behind Ralph and covered in black velvet.  It was quite large as befitted a fifteen hundred dollar commission.

“As you know,” Ralph began again.

“Speak up!”

“Shut up!”

“As you know!”  Ralph leaned to close to the microphone.  The feedback nearly deafened everyone in the room.

Ralph pulled back immediately, and hesitated tentatively as if he were afraid to go near the mike again, which brought on another titter of laughter.  Ralph gazed out over his audience with saucer-sized eyes, and a hand dove for the peanuts.  He stood their cracking and eating several while his audience sat, waiting.

Finally, with both cheeks full of nuts, Ralph approached the microphone again, hesitantly.  “As you know,” he said.  “I am primarily a painter of rural, and that is in our case, agricultural settings.”  Though with all of the nuts in his cheeks this came out a little more like, “ur his hin hower cashe , hagghricalshurrrel shittings.”  This last got a laugh.  Ralph swallowed and drank some water.

“But fine artists down through history have not only reveled in depicting how their friends and neighbors earned their livings, but felt it their duty to celebrate it in song, story and painting.”

George Everlee nodded and started the applause.  “Farmers are the backbone of this community,” he  called out, “and we owe it mostly to just a great breed of Guernsey we have developed right here and now – in Kimmel County!”

There were lots of cheers.  Even fist pumps.

Ralph nodded.  “Praise the Lord for our abundance,” he said.

“Yes.  Yes. Yes,” it was murmured around the room.

“Are we in a tavern and drinking here, or are we in a church?”  The voice called out.

“Shut up!!!”

“As you know also, from my other times up here, that I believe ‘Wherever the Lord has brought abundance, the Devil views jealously.”  Ralph’s eyes narrowed.

The room was quiet.

“Wherever His Good Works Are In Evidence, the Devil plots.”  Ralph’s voice dropped and paused.

“Ah yes.  Yea, yea, yea,” some in the audience responded.  Others began to sway, (some from drink).

“And WHEREEVER the Good Lord Savior most blesses, THERE is where old Beezlebub most seeks to leave his brand!”  Ralph’s eyes bugged.

Hands were lifted.

But not George Everlee’s.  In fact, George Everlee was smiling stiffly, but looking around, wondering where this evening was headed, while his wife Arlene fought, inconspicuously, to get Ralph’s attention.  But by now, Ralph’s eyeballs were surely big as saucers, and the veins in his temple bulged.

“George Everlee’s Guernsey, Daffodil, was surely most blessed,” Ralph continued, pointing to the cloth covered painting, and with a nod to Ralph Everlee.

Leland had a feeling.  ‘This is fast turning into a wake,’ Leland thought.  ‘And for that, someone has to have died…’

But Ralph Everlee smiled, relaxed a bit, and nodded tentatively.

“Why I can still remember that frosty morning she was first delivered,” Ralph said.  “I was working on another portrait of a sort in a far part of the barn of Henrietta, George’s prize sow.  Many of you, of a few year’s memory, surely remember her.  I’ve got to say, she had the best flesh tones of any sow I’ve had the pleasure yet to paint in this area… mostly yellow ochre and Old Holland white with just the barest highlight of vermillion.”

Arlene blushed.  But George pumped his fist to a general cheer which arose from the crowd.   “It’s Stumps Magic Sow Cream” for any of you who are interested!”  George called out.

Ralph nodded, then moved closer to the mike.

“I know many of you here now – right now – have either laughed slightly, or just coughed, when you have heard me say up here in the past that an Artist has to Beat the Devil, each time he takes up his brush.  That Art is so important to the glorification of God, that the Devil must see to it himself, that this process – lent to us by God Himself – we call creation goes awry.  So that what is meant to be a glorification instead becomes an abomination.”

            Arlene and Ralph Everlee were now looking worried again, as were his kin, nestled nervously around, as to where this was going.  There was tittering and nervous reaching for drinks.

“I think you’d better just show us the painting, Ralph,” the voice in the back called.

And this time it was answered by a murmured chorus of assents.

“Before he does!”  Arlene Everlee stood up, bravely trying to turn the river of  some dark destiny to which it seemed Fate had deemed course through their celebratory evening.  “I just want to say how proud I am of my husband George, and his prize Guernsey Daffodil!  for the honor he has bestowed upon all of us here this evening who are gathered to toast our profession.  And I just want to add,” as she teared up, “that George has been as good a husband and provider these 25 years as he is a breeder and Daffodil is a milker.”

“Hear!  Hear!”  Voices cried.

They all drank to that, while Arlene blubbered and George Everlee kissed her.

“Show us the painting for Godsakes, Ralph,” another shouted.

“Well, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, I’m not going to say I beat the Devil,” Ralph said, gripping a corner of the drapery, and pulling.

Inwardly Leland prepared to cringe.

“But I drank his beer for free.  And then I painted his Face.”

Ralph had gotten most of the prize Guernsey Daffodil right excepting for the face, which resembled exactly that of a chipmunk.

A gasp rose up.

Silence gripped the room, while everyone fought to realize what to say, and turned generally towards George Everlee – whose jaw had fallen nearly to the floor – for guidance.  It was George’s herd manager, Earl, who finally spoke first.

“Well, he got her tits right,” he remarked gruffly.

Graphic of painting by Carl Nelson

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Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 2, 2013

Chipmunk in wild3

Things Get Squirrely

(Episode 53)

 Agent Hailey arrived about the time things got going.

More chairs had been set out.  Most of the Everlees and their friends and relations had arrived and gotten their drinks and snacks.  From the silence it sounded as though Ralph Bunch had gotten the microphone feedback solved.  Behind the microphone, hung in the place of honor and covered in black velvet, was the commissioned painting.

“George Everlees prize Guernsey won the Kimmel County Milkers Association Producer of the Year Award, and has done this three years running,” Leland told Agent Hailey.  “She’s quite a woman.”

“I’d imagine.”  Agent Hailey laughed.

“So they’ve had her portrait commissioned.  The Association is thinking of having this done for each of the yearly winners, to be hung in a place as yet to be determined.  So this reception is a big night for Ralph.  That might be why he appears so nervous.”

“Or it could be that he’s always been a screw-up and a loser,” Leland’s sour new acquaintance to the right said.

“Excuse me a moment,” Leland told Agent Bailey.

Leland leaned to his right.  “You’re going to walk to the restroom and stay there until you think you can sit here with your mouth shut for the rest of the evening – or I’m going to hit you in the ribs so hard with my elbow here that you’ll see spots,” Leland told his new acquaintance.

“I can keep my mouth shut,” the man said.

“Okay.”

Leland nodded towards where Ralph was chewing peanuts, and then, as if in a fit of rage, smashing the shells.  He looked as if he were trying not to eat more, first pushing the bowl of peanuts away – then pulling it back.  He appeared quite conflicted.  “He doesn’t look quite himself tonight,” he noted to Agent Hailey.  “But then, Ralph is an odd duck.  I think I’ll go up and have a chat with him, just to be sure everything is alright.”  He smiled at Agent Hailey and excused himself.  “And don’t you even glance at her,” Leland said to the man on his right as he left.  The man’s head snapped forward.

Leland walked up to where Ralph was seated.  “Ralph, how’re you doing?”  Leland asked, reaching to take a peanut from the bowl.

“Don’t touch those.”  Ralph pulled them away.

Leland thought Ralph was joking with him and reached again.

Ralph’s head shot forward and Leland jerked his hand back instinctively.  It looked like Ralph had tried to bite him!

“What the hell, Ralph?”  Leland laughed.

“Don’t touch my fucking nuts!”

“Okay,” Leland said with some levity.  “I’ll leave your junk alone.”

Ralph just stood there looking at Leland, as if Leland were a wild animal he didn’t understand.  Leland didn’t know what was going on.  “You pretty nervous, huh?  This time around, about the show?”

Ralph seemed to break down, almost in tears.

“Oh Leland, you don’t know.  My career is over.  My life is probably ended.”  Ralph grabbed at Leland’s hand like a lifeline.

This seemed more like the overly sensitive Ralph that Leland knew.  Leland sat down.  He nodded to Agent Hailey to indicate that this might take a moment.

“I can’t paint anymore!”  Ralph said in hushed tones.

Leland furrowed his brows.

“All it seems I can do is to chew and harbor nuts, like a squirrel.”  Ralph sputtered with wide eyes.

Leland reached unconsciously for another peanut as he listened.  And Ralph flew at his arm with his teeth.

“Shit!”  Leland said, shoving Ralph off.  There was drool left on his shirt.  Ralph’s teeth probably would have broken the skin if it hadn’t been for the tough fabric.  “What the hell?”

“I can’t control it!”  Ralph cried leaning back, eyes wide.  “I tried to warn you.”

“Control what?”

“I don’t know.  The mind, I think, of the chipmunk.”  Ralph was focused far off on some thought.  “He’s so….   feral.”

Leland was at a complete loss.  Finally Leland decided Ralph had been better left alone.

Leland walked back to the bar.  Agent Hailey asked, “What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” Leland said.  “I hope it’s not rabies.  He was going on about some chipmunk.”

“This might not have been the best night for you to have attended.  But I feel now, like I’d better stay and watch over things,” Leland added.  “You want to go?”

“No.”  Agent Hailey smiled.  “I think I can handle a chipmunk.”

“It sounds like Ralph can’t.”  Leland frowned.

Finally, it came time for the ceremony to begin.

PhotoArt by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 8, 2013
Chipmunk on Windowsill

Chipmunk on Windowsill

Ralph Bunch Paints 6×10 Foot Chipmunk Portrait

(Episode 46)

  Ralph Bunch has never killed anyone.  And he probably never will.  And it’s doubtful anyone would ever want to kill Ralph.  So what’s his play?  Why shine our spot on him?

Well, life is fleeting (especially around Kimmel County of late) and art is forever.  So while life in Kimmel County wound on, Ralph Bunch kept painting his paintings, writing his poems and drinking his alcohol – all in a small hillside studio where he lived, just outside of town, looking down on the twinkling lights of Kimmel.  Ralph was fairly satisfied.

Ralph wouldn’t say things were going especially well.  But things rarely go especially well for painters and poets, and Ralph was “totally prepared for that” – bragging to his wife, who was pregnant with child, as much – just before she left him.

But that was water under the bridge.  The years passed.  And his paintings sold enough now to just about keep him fed.  (He was on the fighting side of 120 pounds.)

At his monthly art showing/poetry readings held in the bar in the back of the Campaign Café, his paintings often sold from three to four hundred a pop.  Then, he usually took in around sixty dollars in tips.  He wasn’t entirely without an entertainer’s wiles, and often pitched one of the exhibited paintings, by reading a poem in a voice somewhat reminiscent of John Gielgud.

The paintings and poems often were of someone – or something dear to someone – living there in the valley.   Which meant their wives and friends and relations would attend the fete.  And then the person’s mother or father or closest would purchase the painting.  On other occasions Ralph unveiled a commissioned piece.

The criticism of those who did not like the painting, often fell on the ‘painted while drunk’ side, with the comments those who did like the painting falling otherwise, and all of them drinking and getting a little more vocal as the evening progressed.  And this was how cultural life was conducted in Kimmel.

This cultural get-together was considered one of Kimmel’s more serious and proper occasions, often covered in the County Journal.  And it ranked just slightly below the Church Social as a place where a person could bring a ‘serious’ romantic interest.  Currently, Sheriff Leland was figuring just how he might invite Agent Hailey to attend with him, without it appearing too much to be what it was or would be, which was a date.

Anyway, recently Ralph was working on a large painting of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey.  He was squinting at the thing, while stepping back, trying his best to recover his original inspiration, and under a little time pressure to do so as the ‘opening’ was only 2 days away, when he caught movement in the blurry background where there, set on the mossy rock of the windowsill, was a chipmunk looking back at Ralph with an intensity Ralph had never felt in the face of any animal before.  Ralph blinked.  Then he blinked again, and kept blinking.

Ralph stepped further backwards, squinting at his work.  Then he found himself going through his cupboards looking for crackers and nuts and knocking things aside and chewing tops off.  Even later, he couldn’t recall quite what had come over him.

To be honest, the rest of the afternoon was a blur, with Ralph finding himself that evening surrounded by empty cracker cartons, paint tubes, broken brushes, snack bags and emptied cans of nuts, while on the easel in place of his nearly finished portrait of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey was a still wet 6 x 10 foot portrait of  the chipmunk – more or less.  It was probably the most intense thing Ralph had ever painted and probably supported the most paint Ralph had ever committed to one painting.  Paint covered Ralphs hands and elbows.  In the mirror, his face, looked as though someone had smeared war paint on him and then rubbed, and rubbed…  Ralph Bunch gazed around, still disoriented, as if recovering from a very vivid dream, under the bare bathroom light bulb and wiped a dribble of sweat from his nose.

The actual chipmunk, meanwhile, had disappeared.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

November 10, 2010

One thing going online can do is to access the world.  Here are a couple paintings of a Russian surrealist painter, Pyotr Lukyanenko.  He has a fairly complete explanation of his work and philosophy on his website at: http://plukyanenko.info


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