In the Hills of Arkansas

  Gold Medal - Master Signature Division   "Crazy Quilt"      David Hettinger OPAM $7,000   14" x 14"

Gold Medal - Master Signature Division
"Crazy Quilt"  David Hettinger OPAM
$7,000 14" x 14"

I recently won a gold medal with my painting "Crazy Quilt.” It’s nice winning a gold medal, but the painting itself is the real reward for me. Just about every painting I create is, in itself, a reward for me. It was the time spent with Jordan that inspired the painting. She’d be trying to study with me asking questions in an effort to get to know her better. She’d fiddle with the plants on my windowsill as she answered my questions. I can get quite inquisitive when painting. I'm sure Jordan would have preferred I had kept quiet, with a test scheduled for the next day. I did try to keep quiet but her life was so different than the lives of most models... 

The crazy quilt, her books, the lighting coming in the window, all took on more meaning the more she told me about her life. I pictured her in the hills of Arkansas swinging from a rope dropping into the crystal clear waters of everyone's favorite swimming hole. Racing for shore when someone yelled "Cotton Mouth!", a poisonous snake that is an excellent swimmer. Not much scares Jordan, but snakes do. Still she posed at ponds here, baring hundreds of bug bites, so I could get my painting.

There is always more to a painting than a pretty girl with a great smile and great legs. A friendship develops through the process of creating art, not so much with a still-life. I usually eat my still-lifes when finished with the painting...

I've won several awards, all with figurative pieces and all with models who have inspired me with who they are inside. 

Touch of Pinkish-Red

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Why did the artist cross the road? So he wouldn't have to put that caution sign in his painting.

Some artists are so locked into painting from a photo they cannot deviate one tiny bit from what’s in the photo. They get in just the perfect spot to take their photo from. That yellow caution sign might just be what is really needed to bring interest to their painting though. A friend put a railroad crossing sign in her painting and I swear the light in the center of that crossing sign was blinking red. That tiny touch of pinkish red made that painting. Turns out there was no railroad sign in that landscape. The artist just felt that the summer landscape in her mind needed that touch of pinkish red. That's what an artist does, they take the ordinary and make it special.

Twenty years since I saw that painting and I remember it like I had just seen it yesterday. A good artist does that, they make you look and think about things. I tried to picture a train winding it's way through the country side and a car full of excited kids counting the passing train cars and telling Aunt Anita about all the different kinds of train cars they counted. Kathy Wilson Smith took me back to the trains and visits to my aunt and uncle for a moment as I stood in front of her watercolor. 

How we artists use our photos is so important. Some cross the road to get the ideal shot of the landscape before us, others see that landscape with the yellow caution sign as a better way to stir peoples minds. The artist inside builds upon that scene and thinks about possibilities. They take to the studio the photos they took and dream about the paintings they may get from those photos. Maybe the caution sign turns from a deer crossing sign, then to a warning of an ‘S’ curve? Maybe the photo of the cow standing with his head behind a tree needs to have the cow in front of the tree? 

Photos can be of great use to an artist or they can stifle ones creativity.