"Wings of My Soul"

"Wings of My Soul"

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Hermon is amazing; not only is his talent shown in his paintings, but in his titles for each piece. Many times, the title precedes the actual painting. Then the painting reveals itself. As I said before, there is great preparation for the artwork; the titles are another story. At one time, we had about 48 lithograph images, and, of course, that many names. We laughed about it, because many of them had wind, wolves, or brothers in the titles. There was North Wind, South Wind, East Wind, West Wind, Ruler of the Winds, To Catch the Wind, Brothers, Three Wolves, Snow Wolf, Snow Wolves, etc. Sometimes our family and staff would concentrate on thinking up a title for a painting that Hermon just could not name. Those were some of the most enjoyable times we spent together. Spelling was never Hermon's best asset. So, there were errors that needed to be corrected before the images went to the printer. One in particular, that I caught, was "Coming Home." He spelled it with two "m's"-comming home. So it was not surprising, when we got one back from the printer with a mispelled title. But this one was particularly funny to us, because it was not one that Hermon had ever misspelled. (We thought the type setter should have caught that one, but maybe he was Japanese.) "Broken Silence" read "Broken Slience!" So there it is and there it stays. One of the most beautiful titles was made by Jim, our older son. "Wings of My Soul" suited the mood of the painting to a tee. Titles are very important to the artwork, because it can tell the tale in very few words. Hermon has always had a great knack for that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cake Job

When Robert was six, he told a friend that his dad had "a cake job; he just paints, whenever he feels like it." From his perspective, perhaps, but, that is not the real story. That might work for semi-professional artists, but Hermon was driven, from the moment he set his sights on becoming a full-time artist. He had a determination and a work ethic that amazed everyone. He could work way beyond anyone else, and never seem to tire of planning, discussing, seeking, and working toward his goal, to become a famous, successful artist. He spent hours doing research, whether it be in magazines, art books, photography, sketches, or paintings. He gathered so much information about his subject matter, that, I believe, his other passion is books. (He didn't want to be a lawyer, because they had to study too much.) That is exactly what he did-to study all aspects of the historical, for truth and accuracy, to the best of his abilities. That is essential to Hermon. He says there will always be someone, who is an expert, or who thinks he is, that will know the difference in one rifle or the other, or one mountain range, or an Indian tribe, by his costume and jewelry. Hermon's swipe file is vast, one that he has been collecting for probably 50 years. I remember some early files of horses, clouds, trees, cowboys, etc. He uses live models for all his characters. That entails lots of work, too. Proper lighting, best model, background and effects,and many hours. Modeling can be hard work. I know first hand; the boys and I are the least expensive models Hermon has ever had. So, there is a lot more to painting pretty pictures than just painting. He probably spends an equal amount of time in preparation for the painting. Usually, the idea comes first, and many times the title. Then comes the composition from his imagination. Hermon does not "copy" a photograph, unless he has composed it. Then he might alter it, in more ways than one. He uses portions of several photos for detail. Light and shadow must be consistant and accurate in all of them, for that particular painting. Then comes the actual painting itself. When it goes smoothly, one can count on a week to a month. And they don't always go smoothly. Something he chose to do, might not work in the actual configuration, for example. All in all, it is an intensive process to put together. Hermon will only accept the result, if it is exactly what he has in mind. For a lot of years, Hermon and our sons built the frames from scratch. That is a whole other talent, which entails much accuracy and physical labor, as well as does creating spectacular paintings. A "cake job" for a driven, talented, hardworking, never-say-die artist, like Hermon Adams, who is just that. The proof is in the pudding.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jackson Hole-First Summer "81

This time of year is so busy, there is hardly time to reminisce to that far back. Gosh, let me think... Jim was seven, Rob almost three, and they had become cowboys way back at their first rodeo in New Orleans! They were quite impressed that they were in cowboy country in Wyoming. The Fourth of July parade was our first real western experience, the shoot-out, the dance hall girls, all the horses, with their colorful riders. We were also quite taken by the antler arches on the square of Jackson. Another thing that was fascinating to us was all the art galleries, every few feet around the little town. They were in every nook and cranny. There were, also, artists set up painting and displaying their artwork. We really felt like we were in the right place, and it would be just a matter of time before Hermon was discovered. He did manage to sell some of his images on leather at a shop called the Coyote Den, the first day there. We found a great campground behind the Wagon Wheel Village Motel and Restaurant. There was a creek nearby, where the boys fished and caught lots of rocks. I spent lots of time wading in the frigid water to untangle and retrieve the fishing line. Hermon met the folks who owned the Indian Trader, Paul and Mary Rodgers; they became wonderful friends, with whom we became closely attached for many years. Paul let Hermon set up to paint in front of his shop. Then Hermon asked about the front porch of the restaurant, where the traffic was really heavy, and there was plenty of space to display his finished artwork. He did lots of little wildlife and scenic paintings, and they sold, almost as fast as he could paint them, for around one hundred dollars. His leather Indians sold quite well, also. So we were off to a great start, and it was fun to live by the creek and visit with our newly found friends. The Wagon Wheel Village was full of young people, working there for the summer. Hermon made a hit with all of them, esp. the ladies. Some of the guys even modelled for a couple of the paintings. Hermon took us out to take photographs for reference, at least once a week. We spent lots of time up in the surrounding mountains and in the Elk Refuge with the kids. What a dream life we were living! Hermon, the boys and I would enjoy having breakfast at the restaurant with our friends about once or twice a week, when they had the radio show with Babe Humphrey, from the Bar-J Chuck wagon. He and three others put on a western show and chuck wagon dinner at the working ranch. That was a blast. Hermon became good friends with Babe and the entire band, esp. a young cowboy, named Scott Vaughn, the yodeler. What fun we had with that group for that whole summer and the next.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Too Much Time Passes By Between

I need to get back to work. I have taken too much time between entries. Hermon has been working on his Song of Hiawatha series for the book he is putting together with his illustrations. It is really phenomenal, so far. He is feeling more like himself once again, thank heavens. He has been really busy reorganizing his studio and gleaning. It has been a long, cold winter, making it very difficult to be motivated to work very much. Thank goodness for spring!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Life-long Project

It is time to share with the world what Hermon has been working on for at least 30 years. While we lived and worked in Raymond, MS, Hermon got a commission for a painting of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha across the river. The gentleman who wanted it, sent Hermon a photo of a statue of the subject. Hermon proceded to do research on the subject and in doing so, decided to read the epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, by Longfellow. He thought there might be some word pictures within the poem. By the time he finished reading it, he had easily found over two hundred word pictures, which inspired the majority of his paintings over the years of his career. He is finally beginning a culmination of the images in book form. It is intended to be a coffee table edition of a limited number. He has at least thirty pages completed and recorded. Of course, I want him to hurry up and do it. It is going to be gorgeous and very moving. One of the first paintings that I remember being put to the words of Longfellow, is called "The Spirit's Hand." I will relate this to you, just to give you a sample of what the book will include.
The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple, Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms there are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not, That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness, Touch God's right hand in that darkness,
And are lifted up and strengthened; Listen to this simple story,
To this song of Hiawatha!"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Climbing the Mountains

We packed up our paintings, the kids, and hooked up the trailer, as soon as the truck was fixed. We were excited to be on our way up the mountain and through Colorado and onto Jackson Hole.

As we crested the top of that first mountain, just past where our truck had stopped 3 days before, I looked across a gorge, and there standing near the edge, bugling, was a huge elk! I can see him so clearly in my mind's eye. A perfect picture to behold. I told Hermon that it was a good omen, and that it meant good things ahead. It was an exhilarating feeling, especially after the past few days. The truck was running great and took the mountain with no trouble at all.

Having never been to Colorado before, we had no idea what to expect to see on our way. The countryside was gorgeous and completely different than anything we had imagined. The aspen trees and the meadows showed their summer colors in rich hues of silver green, whites, brights, yellows, purples, and orange. The landscape gradually changed, as we travelled;it painted a thousand scenes before us, as we drank it all in. We rode and rode and sang and laughed and sang some more. Every now and then, we had to make a pitstop and let Rob "water" the flowers along the way. There were no conveniences for miles and miles. Yet, no one seemed to mind. We were loving our adventure.

One of our very favorite places on the way, was Logan, Utah. We camped at a very nice campground that looked out on the mountains on the horizon and on the horses across the fence next to the campground. Very picturesque. The air was quite cool in the mornings, as we began each day. What a change from the heat of the south! So refreshing! And the feeling of freedom was overwhelming. We felt like birds out of a cage.

When we finally arrived in Jackson Hole, Hermon went to a shop called "The Coyote Den" to show the owner his work. She bought a couple of the leather Indians immediately. Hermon returned to the campground and continued to work on his large commissioned piece for Elayne's Gallery in Minneapolis, MN. When that one was completed, Elayne sent us the rest of the money for the painting. She and Hermon had made an agreement before we left Mississsippi. That worked out very well. Then, we had a chance to, actually, be tourists and check out the town and all the galleries. It was a wonderful experience.

We found out that things did not really begin to happen in Jackson until the Fourth of July. That gave Hermon plenty of time to work, because we had a couple of weeks before the big event. And that is what he did. He also did some checking around to find a place to paint and a cheaper campground. We had plans to settle in for a while. What a fun place to be! That was a summer filled with lots of adventures and outings. One that we will always hold dear.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We're Back!

As you might have guessed, I extended my stay in MS; my cousin was coming in from Nashville for the family reunion, and I could hardly leave without seeing her and the rest of the family. So I stayed another few days. My uncle is much improved and I am so relieved. I had a great time with my family.

The remodel continues to go on and on, so...I have really enjoyed using my new stove. The weather has been perfect for baking. M-m-mmmm!I will really be in Hermon's good graces when I bake his favorite "pecan chewies." I may tackle that tomorrow.

On with the story.. In rereading, I see that "the way west" never arrived and I left out a lot of stuff.

While we were in Raymond, Hermon got a brainstorm! How to "mass produce" his paintings of Indian portraits on leather. He ventured out to do just that, when an interested party wanted to order mutiples, that is, "as many as you can paint!" Hermon's system involved a huge amount of physical work for us both. He stretched and dyed the leather. I did the handwork: consisting of adding feathers and embellishments on each piece. There was Baby Robert in his playpen and Jim sitting at his grandad's desk, writing and drawing while we worked. The studio was always in disarray when I got there, and there seemed to be no solution, so we worked around everything. And we worked really hard.

Hermon asked the buyer to venture out with him and buy 10 or 20 of the same image until he could complete the process for the rest of the portraits. That wasn't too much to ask really, because we had put everything on the line in order to start up. The guy began picking apart the work we sent him, then decided to opt out. Hermon had spent nearly a year getting the kinks worked out! They looked really good. Some were painted on rounds with rope border and feathers with turquoise. Others were made into hangings using dowels and leather string we had made and feather and turquoise. But there we were, preparing the images en masse, with no outlet.

We packed up and went to a three week show in Birmingham, AL, where we sold quite a few of them. They were a big hit. Any other shows we did, they were a shoe-in. A good seller. We had stacks of them in varying stages of completion. Sometimes, I even got to paint the jewelry and the light in the eyes. I learned a lot. But my fingers hurt from working with the leather string, tying knots, etc. and with the rough materials in general. But we were excited about them. The images were of significant Indians that had been photographed by Edward Curtis and were recognizeable: Chief Joseph, Nez Perce; Quannah Parker; Red Cloud, and one handsome Pawnee named Particular Time of Day. They were all striking figures on canvas. When we did the Christmas show in Birmingham, an older woman (probably younger than I am now), purchased that painting for her daughter. Then she decided she wanted one for herself. She wanted to know his name. When Hermon told her "Particular Time of Day," she said, "Any time, any where!" We thought that was so cute. And from the heart. (He is my favorite one, too.)

Those portraits on leather paid our way out west, and we did very well with them. Hermon also painted one of John Wayne with a bandana on the rope frame. Our little guy, Robert, thought his name was John Lane. He always called him that. Then when he got a little older, we were watching a John Wayne movie, when Robert said,"you know, Dad, John Wayne looks a lot like John Lane!" We died laughing!

When we left New Orleans for the last time to head out west to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the center for western art, those paintings were a Godsend! As we camped at night in our trailer, Hermon did some painting on the leather Indians. When we got to Dodge City, Kansas, he showed them to the campground owner. They bought a couple which paid for our stay there and them some. Another camper saw them and wanted one, too. So Hermon completed one at the picnic table, while she watched. She was so thrilled. So that was good and we came out ahead.

As we were about to head up the first mountain of the Rockies in Colorado, about half way up, our truck died. Hermon hitched a ride down the mountain several miles, while I stayed in the truck with the boys, and no way to get out. We were right up against the solid rock wall to the right of the road, pulled over as far as we could get. No way could I have opened the other door next to the road way. So we sat there for 2 hours, it seemed. It was touch on the little guys being confined, but they did very well. I was getting clostraphobia, however! Finally, Hermon returned with a wrecker. The guy had to take the front wheels off the truck, in order to get it far enough on the wrecker so it could tow the trailer behind without dragging. (Later, we discovered that the frame of the trailor had gotten bent.) We all piled into the wrecker and away we went. But it was so scary, turning that big rig around on the narrow highway with sheer cliff on one side. I know I held my breath, as we inched our way around. It nearly takes my breath today, to think of it!

The little town of La Veta was at the foot of the mountains. Fortunately, there was a truck stop, with a mechanic shop too. So, we had a place to park and to eat. They didn't charge us to park. The radiator needed to be rodded out, and the part they needed would take a couple of days to arrive. That was the windiest place I have ever been; dust was blowing everywhere. We tasted grit every time we went outside. The door practically blew off its hinges each time the boys went in or out. Hermon painted; the owners liked the Indians and bought enough to pay for the work done on the truck and paid us a couple of hundred, to boot. (That truck stop ordered artwork from us years later, when we sold our ltd. edition prints! We were ever grateful for good folks.) We sat at lunch and watched the antelope running and jumping. We were so excited to see the wildlife, for the very first time. The boys were real cowboys. We were on a great adventure heading west, just like the pioneers!