SUNSET by John Fowler
The artist grudgingly paused in mid stroke. The turning of his initial vertebrae faintly audible as they passed one against the next. I'm not sure whether I recognized familiar disturbed creative annoyance or simple disgust. The heavy raw sienna at the tip of his brush mimicked his nose in hue and curve. The paint on the canvas was luscious and peaked like confections or pastry. He was a fine dedicated cook. There was nothing savory in this painting - it was all sweetness. Heavy mustaches on his face and on the rabbit skin grounds, no under-painting, diving right in. Tujaque, a name he found in New Orleans, quite drunk, devouring the place and the beautiful fried chicken framed by mounds of hookers green parsley and stinging, piquant garlic. Tujaque, my friend, as I would see him for the last time; sad that I had broken his reverie, yet, remodeling a hard grimace into a toothy smile as big and raucous as any Creole pleasure palace. He loved me and I him. Two men in love as heterosexual men can be - enamored of the shared stories, gifts and humanity of the other. Artist is a strange condition. One is somewhat detached from and held in various degrees of contempt by most of society. Bonds between artists are reminiscent of those of ex-cons or combat veterans with the caveat of cerulean blue, phthalo green, line, shape, light and dark. Typically a brotherhood of shared early self-doubt, drunkenness, and trouble with the love of Fathers.
There is certainly strength in numbers. However most creative souls are solitary toilers unlike Klansmen or Knights of Columbus. Tujaque was the exception. No Ebenezer Scrooge - humanity was his business. Strangers were canvases awaiting paint. He moved from the cakey self-portrait and hugged me like a Mexican Pulquero and made two raw sienna Indian strokes on my cheek bones. This surprised me. He was a rare Oklahoma cowboy, soldier, race car driver, artist. He couldn't and wouldn't talk of Native Americans or Civil war battles. It must have been that tears or pain were out of the question. He once explained that "a fellow can sit a horse and still long for the simplicity of Crayolas". We never prepared the communal meal of smoked duck with mole. I must now be content with all the memories of the lively conversations on the subject.
He painted ducks, old Jews, horses and beautiful women. His lady asked me if I was going to be all right after she informed me of his passing. I lied and said that I would. I didn't get in a final hello or goodbye. But you know, I've got a jewel he left behind; "Anybody can get some happiness with memories and paintings".