Terry West Chattanooga Tennessee Painting

First Impressions: My First Steps at Making Art

I didn't know what art was or how to make art in 1942 but art held a great mystery
to me and I at five years of age wanted to know how to make art happen and to
dispel some of its mystery.

During World War Two my mother, grandmother, sister and I lived in a
southeastern Tennessee area known as Middle Valley, way out in the
country in a small four room cottage built on a seven acre tract of
woodland except for a clearing set aside for growing our annual garden.
In warm weather our “out house” (toilet) was some thirty to forty paces
from our back door. In the cold of winter it was much, much further. With
no indoor plumbing we made do by catching rainwater through a cistern
that connected to a well with its hand pump in the center of our kitchen.
We heated one end of the house with a small coal and wood burning
stove in the living room and a "coal oil" (Kerosene) stove for heating
water and cooking in the kitchen.


When cold weather came from mid September through late April one of
my chores among others was to build a fire every morning in that little
stove in the living room and in the evening after school I was to bring in a
good supply of wood for the “wood box” and a full scuttle of coal to be
placed nearby the stove on the hearth for use the next day. O yow! I also
was given the chore of setting up the “slop jar” (chamber pot) before
bedtime and emptying it in the morning after firing up the stove– without
fail!


Doing my chores was a large responsibility for me during those young
years and was a beneficial learning experience in my life. Looking back,
my chores gave me a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance. Today
I just love the sound of a commode flushing.


Your asking yourself: ”why is he telling me all this?” The foregone has
relevance and is connected to my following stories. Learning about life at
a young age is very impressionable for anyone with an open, inquiring
mind, and as for me sodalities and naturally acquired sensitivities of
those early life experiences and impressions are sometime found in my
artwork today.


drawing, painting, acrylic, mixed media, terry west, red bank, chattanooga, tennessee

Remembering My First Conchase Art Lesson, The Red Tulip

"Much of what is recorded here is of course from my memory as a young
boy and the telling of this story many times in conversations with my
family members and others have altered some of the details in small
ways. Never the less the essence and general review are not without
merit" - Terry

It was Easter, my younger sister and I about 4 and 5 years old were in
the kitchen floor next to the well comparing our gifts, those small surprise
gifts mom had secretly placed under the dyed, pastel rainbow colored
eggs, eggs from our own chickens, a few richly colored candy eggs and
cellophane “grass” in our Easter Basket. I pulled from my basket a small
set of ugh, almost red, almost yellow, almost blue and almost black, 4
small round cakes of pail color paint and a brush glued to a piece of
heavy cardboard. Saturated colorful printing like a rainbow on the
cardboard spelled out the letters W-A-T-E-R-C-O-L-O-R   S-E-T.

What was this? How does it work? What does it mean?
I’ll ask my “gran-maw”. She had no art training but in her way did her best to
give me brief directions on how to get started, “well honey, she began, you
need some water and you’ll need some paper then you need to have an idea
about what it is you would like to paint”. What do you mean, idea? I asked.
She continued, an idea could be a bird, a tree, a flower or a, Wow! OK!
I interrupted, I know, I was ready now to start looking for an idea for my
painting.


Our front yard was mostly yellow “clay” a beautiful yellow ocher color.
No grass to speak of but yes we were richly blessed with a great variety
of healthy weeds and wild flowers. A small ornamental concrete fish tank
that no longer held water was a feature in our yard and around it grew an
abundance of ivy ground cover and in springtime mixed in with the ivy grew
a few straggling tulips, beautiful red tulips. --- That’s it, that’s it--- I’ll
paint a Red Tulip.


For my paper I used the inside of the lid from a shoebox for my first
painting, you know, the grayish brown cardboard or pasteboard we
sometime called it? I wet the almost red cake of color it became dark red
immediately; I began my first painting on that grayish brown cardboard
hey when it became wet it turned dark too. What a mystery, I could hardly
see the red color. Well, after a short time and thinking I was finished
painting the Red Tulip I set it aside and put away my new watercolor set.
I was so proud of my painting. When mom gets off the bus tonight I’ll
show her my first watercolor painting.


In those days The Cherokee Bus Line was our source of transportation
as mom could not drive or afford the price of a car, riding the bus was
good enough but that old bus was slow, rarely on schedule, give or take
thirty minutes, twice a day if it didn’t break down, it was rough riding, with
no air conditioning it ran hot in the summer and without a heater it was
cold in the winter, without a exhaust muffler it was very loud and if you
listened you could always hear it pulling out from its regular stop at
Charley and Marie Walkers General Store at Walkers Corner a mile away
from our house. My Mom rode that bus twice a day, six days a week for
many years, as she worked as a cosmetologist hairdresser in
Chattanooga some 20 or so miles away.

 

Saturday Night Treats and Unvailing "The Red Tulip"

In the evening around 7:30 my sister and I would anxiously wait and listen
for the arrival of that old red and white bus especially on Saturdays
because that was payday for Mom, she would do her shopping. When
she stepped off that bus with arms loaded down with sacks of groceries,
bundles and packages and sometimes our favorite candy and a surprise
gift or two. My sister and I would race down the hill to greet her with
hugsand kisses to help carry her load of booty up to the house. Gran-maws
favorite sweets were horehound and liquorish candies, and mom would
remember that too.


After we had supper I finished my chores for the day and things settled
down, the time now was right to show off “The Red Tulip” my very first
watercolor painting. Bursting with excitement I ran to get it - but as I
picked it up I saw the color had changed it was dry now, -- color was too
pale too chalky, – Why was it so unlike what I had painted and expected
to see. It was pink now not a beautiful rich red, red like the red tulip I saw
in the yard or the red on the side of that old Cherokee Line bus.
Why? - Well I’ll wait and show it off later. Tomorrow I’ll add more red
color.

I repeated the same steps as before, I wet the almost red cake of color it
became dark red immediately; I began adding paint over the pail pinkish tulip
on that gray cardboard when it became wet it turned dark red just asbefore.
It was still a mystery but I could see the red color was strongernow.
I finished painting the Red Tulip and this time I watched as it dried.
This time I learned that it was the water that was making the red color
brighter this time I was much happier with it. Again I set it aside and put
away my watercolor set. I was so proud of my first watercolor painting.
When mom gets home tonight I’ll greet her and give “The Red Tulip” my very
first watercolor painting.

 

Playing in mud is a learning exercise, every youngun should be allowed.

Mud was nothing new to me as a kid, when it rained I was sometime scolded
when I forgot and tracked sticky yellow ocher mud into the house I soon
learned to wipe it off my shoes before entering the house. I guess mud has
earned a bad reputation partly because of that. Playing in mud is important to
kids there is much to learn from mud, what one can do with mud and what
its accepted limits are, its like developing a friendship. In retrospect it was to
me a learning tool a creative medium and a way to express ideas, there is
more to mud than meets the eye and does not deserve to be loosely slung
around.

Under our house was a crawl space, it was always dry, it was cool in the
summer and warm in the winter as a kid I played in the dirt there blissfully for
many hours in relative comfort.

One spring as the weather began warming my baby sister was frightened
when she saw a large snake coiled up in the crawl space so she stayed away
from then on and I guess the snake didn’t like seeing her either. I never did
see that snake again. That was just fine for me. My sister and I were good
companions most of the time but I didn’t always need her opinion on
everything I was doing so the snake did me a favor.The yellow dirt in the
crawl space was powder dry, fine like clay dust. I was curious about it as I
would play with my toy dump truck, toy cars, tin cans, boxes and such
scooping it up to fill my toys, digging in it, piling it up, mixing sand with it,
mixing water with it, making mud paved “roads” with it, etc. hour after hour.



My curiosity was stimulated most when I mixed water with this fine dust to make mud,
from soupy slurry to a smooth cream to a sticky paste, kneading and texturing and
on and on I played this way learning all the while. I could roll a patty into a pancake,
make the pancake into a tube, roll the tube into an imaginary coiled up snake looking
somewhat like that snake that frightened my little sister and a real breakthrough the
coil from the snake was flattened a bit and coil constructed into a small mud pot.
Could this have been one way our prehistoric relatives learned to make useful clay
pots and paint?

My small mud constructed pot dried somewhat overnight and the color changed from
dark tan like yellow to yellow ocher like the rest of our front yard. This was
another mystery to me. Later I learned to rub the half dried mud coil with water
until it began to dissolved to a smooth outer covering then I drew crude designs
and stamped shapes into that, I placed the pot in the warm sun light to dry, but
it cracked and I was curious why.

As a young kid I didn’t know that I was exploring and experimenting I didn’t know
how or what I was doing and no one taught me. As crude as it was I made a
questionably useful art object from yellow mud in the crawl space under our house.

 

When did I know I had an unconfirmed desire to creat art?

I don’t know? Somewhere between 5 and 6 years of age is a good guess
for me. It was September and today was to be my first day at school. At
five years old I was up before daylight, bathed in a washtub in the kitchen
and dressed in my new school clothes in the warmth of the coal oil stove.
My gran-maw had made my favorite breakfast and packed my lunch with
apple, snack and homemade biscuit sandwiched with our own homegrown
pork sausage, she wrapped them in newspaper and placed them in a brown
paper bag.

The school bus usually passed our house about 7:00 am. It was just getting
light out when I picked up my new book satchel and lunch bag, kissed and
hugged my gran maw good-by and headed out down the hill to the road excited
to catch the school bus. I waited a while, then I heard it coming down the road
from Walkers Corner closer and closer, louder and louder, I will be riding on it
soon, I could see it now, its dark blue color gleaming in the morning sun, coming
closer getting louder, it will be slowing down now---- its not slowing down to
pick me up, its passing me by, the school bus has passed me up, I could see kids
on it waiving as they passed---- Ugh, now what do I do? I ran out in the road
yelling at the top of my being, waiving my lunch and schoolbag. Then I came
to a standstill I didn’t expect to be passed by, it was not a good feeling. I stood
there in silence breathing its loud, stinking exhaust and road dust as I watched
that ugly blue school bus disappeared out of site. I’ve missed my first day of school.
I wonder why it didn’t stop? OK, I was disappointed, OK, maybe it will stop tomorrow,
I’ll go back up the hill and tell gran-maw.

Wow, was my gran-maw mad? She had been watching out the kitchen window and
saw it all. Tomorrow, she said, Ill go down there and stop that school bus and have
me a little talk with that school bus driver. Gran-maw Evans had a wonderful
Scotch-Irish temper. The next morning she did what she promised. Anyone would
be proud to have her as a spokesperson even that old school bus driver. When she
was finished with her intent it was clear to everyone on that bus that the driver was
to stop the bus here every morning. The driver most assuredly agreed with her that
he would. And he did. The next day I climbed aboard the school bus and those who
waved to me the day before were nice, they had told the driver that he passed me by
but he had shrugged it off and kept going. Anyway I was now on my way to school.



First Grade: Art Project

Our first grade classroom was huge as it was in the back corner of the school auditorium
at Gann’s Middle Valley Grammar School. Mrs. Barnes was nice but a firm teacher,
I did well in her class, she passed out many preprinted work sheets that were impressive
to me perhaps I was more interested in the context than the substance, some were
colorfully illustrated drawings some were very simple pale blue line drawings drawn and
printed by Mrs. Barnes on the school Ditto Machine. The drawings were of numbers,
letters, and familiar objects, you know the kind, and three rabbits less one rabbit
leave how many rabbits? Carrots, buttons or birds and so on… I enjoyed her
teaching especially when it came time to do “art projects”.

I like to remember my first “real” art work. It was during our class “art projects” period
when Mrs. Barnes asked everyone to think of something at home that we would like to draw.
After some thought I remembered that my gran-maw had a farmers matches box holder
dispenser with a scratchboard on the side. It hung in the kitchen near our coal oil stove.
Made of tin it was painted red on the inside and white on the outside, on the white front
was artwork printed in black and red.

The art design was somewhat of a silhouette of a lady clothed in antebellum period styled
dress, standing in front of a garden gate rose arbor holding a watering can, watering her
roses. With great enthusiasm I eagerly drew my assignment and presented it to
Mrs. Barnes as every one in class did. Many good ideas came from this project and
Mrs. Barnes was
pleased with all of them but she expressed with excitement how well I had done and
held my drawing up to show all my classmates. And what’s more she tacked my work
to our classroom bulletin board for every one to see. Boy was I proud? That may not
seam like such a big deal but unknown to me at the time it was to launch me into a
lifetime of art and a great career that I have loved.

A few years ago and some 67 years after I made that drawing my wife and I were
browsing a flea market and found an exact copy of that farmers matches box holder
dispenser. I’m looking at it today as I write this story, it reminds me of Mrs. Barnes
and those days so long ago, I know it’s just a tangible thing but it represents a point in
time for me, it is an intangible symbol of awareness, achievement and encouragement,
it has a special place in my head, heart and of course in my studio.

As a young “scholar” I ranked short of expected achievement in most subjects. In art
however it was clear to my teachers that my natural artistic skill exceeded expected
achievement at Gann’s Middle Valley Grammar School. Recognizing this my teacher’s
grades 1 through 6 would “enlist” my artistic abilities. It was a delight drawing for
them on chalkboards and painting stage scenery for our school plays; maps etc. for
them on craft paper while my classmates were studying Math, English, Spelling, etc.
I failed 6th grade but in her wisdom Ms. Thelma Williams a bright, and wonderful
teacher chose to pass me on to Jr. High School with assured conviction that I would
pursue art and that art was my calling. It was then I knew I had an unconfirmed desire
to create art. Thanks Thelma, you were so encouraging to me as you were to all your pupils.



Learning art by observing and mimicking others.

On my ninth birthday Mom gave me a complete set of professional grade oil paints, all the
accepted pigment colors of the time, brushes, pallet, pallet knives, pencils, charcoal, erasers,
turpentine, linseed oil, cobalt dryer, varnish, canvas boards all the things needed to begin
painting in oil including a large artist paint box which I still have. I was very happy and
eager to get started but I didn’t know what to do with all this stuff so I embarked blinkingly
on a grand adventure of experimentation.

My gran-maw owned a watercolor painting that some one she knew years earlier had painted,
she had it hanging in an obscure place in her bedroom. It had a thin black frame around
it with glass in size I guess was about 8.5” x 11”. It had appealed to me for a long time.

Roughly described it was a deep snow winter landscape with a brown rutted road way
shown painted from the right background to the left fore ground and passing by the front
of a small log cabin to the left side of the painting, bluish smoke was shown rising from
the chimney, there was deep snow, light orange in color on the roof and a cozy warm yellow
light glowing in the three small windows one at the end of the cabin by the chimney and
two windows flanked the front door. The sky was ablaze with a bright red, orange and
yellow sunset and shown over distant background purple hills, pine trees to the right,
limbs weighted with a mantel of heavy snow.

I wanted to paint this picture so I opened my art box and empted its contents on to the
bedroom floor and began soon to make a major mess of it; the paint is thick and
gooey, yuck! Now it’s all over my hands, now on my clothes now on the floor where
I sat. AAhhhhh !! I quit, I quit! Cleaned up and put it away but not for long. Days
later I began again. Did I finish that painting? I’ll tell you later, I don’t want
to talk about it now.

 

 

 

Encouragement: Artists never get enough

Artist Fanny Mennen had polio as a child and was left lame; it was necessary
then for her to rely on a leg brace in order to walk. I never heard her complain
about the discomfort, though she surely must have endured pain. Her
overweight health condition was not a negative nor did it distract her
from the love of making and teaching art.

In 1949 our family moved to Chattanooga and I at ten years of age entered
what was known then as Dickinson Junior High School, here I first met
Miss. Mennen a well known professional artist, she was very skilled at art
making and exhibited an awesome, robust personality to boot
(her art strongly reflected this), she was energetic in her speech, firmly seated
in her position as a junior high school art teacher and demanded respect from
her pupils. When she caught any kid goofing off, being lazy or inattentive they
were permanently dismissed with shame post haste from her class. She was
also very insightful with a sensitivity to spot those pupils that demonstrated a
desire to develop their artistic talent.

 



My First: art sale, art agent, art collector

I learned so very much from Miss. Mennen
those three years studying under the influence of her teaching, she presented
many diverse art learning experiences all of which I enjoyed as I grew.
Those of us who wanted to paint out doors were trusted to do so without supervision,
our proof was to bring back to class our finished field study. Doing out door art
studies (plein air) were new to me and this was my first outing. I planed to do
my small study in watercolor.

Half a block away from school in those days was the old home office of Olan Mills
Portrait Studio. The warm afternoon sun highlighted the bright red brick building
front and main office entrance; this is what I saw as a good subject for my study.
The Olan Mills Portrait Studio was located across McCallie Ave. from the home
office of Interstate Life and Accident Insurance Company and there I took a seat
and set up my work place with my back to the sun on a stone wall in front of the
Interstate building to do my painting. Miss. Mennen approved my “field study”, it
was a success and I at twelve years of age was proud of it.

My mom was an exceptionally talented and a sought after hairstylist coiffure,
her extensive list of preferred clients happened coincidently to include Mrs. Olan Mills.
Mom was excited about my study and proceeded to show the little (business office portrait)
watercolor painting to Mrs. Mills who then purchased it for $25.00 for inclusion in her
art collection. This was my first art sale. Mom was my first agent and Mrs. Mills was
my first patron. Today, Olan Mills Portrait Studios is a gigantic organization,
known across the nation for finely crafted archival portraiture products.

One particular classroom project showed a practical application of art, we art
students learned the craft of brush lettering and sign making. We worked for
hours in class and after school designing and hand lettering directional signs
and banners for Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show and as always we were
rewarded and encouraged by seeing our handy work when we visited the
show each fall, it was fun.

The highly successful Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show was the first of its
kind enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of art patrons for many years.

Over sixty years ago Fanny Mennen was literally the mother of 
“thinking outside the box”. This annual autumn outdoor art event was her
brainchild the countries first out door clothes line art show. Her original
idea in those days was to assemble a number of assorted accomplished
artists and craftsmen to join with her to display and sale one of a kind art objects.

Many art pieces were displayed on stumps, logs and clothes lines strung
from tree to tree throughout a natural wooded setting on the grounds of her
studio home in the New Salem Community atop Lookout Mountain,
“Plum” out of Tennessee and “Nelly” out of Georgia.

At my class graduating ceremony from Dickinson Junior High School,
many students were recognized at assembly for outstanding Math, English,
Civics and other scholastic achievement with letters, trophies and awards.
Miss. Mennen presented several art awards to her students one of which she
awarded me. It was a gold lapel pin for exceptional growth in art and in doing
so gave me a very touching accolade proclaiming that I was “the boy with
golden hands”. At that age I didn’t understand the far-reaching
meaning of those words.

Fanny was physically handicapped but as difficult as it was for her every
school day morning she painfully climbed four flights of stairs to her roof
top studio classroom and there she stayed all day. She taught us much,
not necessarily by her intent but by personal example, that with adversity
and set back it is still possible to succeed in art no mater what. Through
her passionate love of art and teaching art she inspired and was genuinely
encouraging to many of us.

It was painful for me when I learned The Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Shows
would be no more. Fanny's mountain studio home at New Salem, Georgia
and all its artistic contents, loom, hand loomed textiles, block prints and
many other irreplaceable artistic valuables were destroyed by fire.

Miss. Mennen and I had not visited or herd from each other for more than
fifteen years. In her retirement and several years after the loss of her
studio Miss. Mennen happened to see a brochure I designed for the
Greater Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce describing the art and
cultural climate in Chattanooga.

As expected from a caring artist/teacher for one of her students she
mailed that brochure to me with a short well-meaning critique boldly
hand written across the front panel about the combination of color
values I chose to use in this brochure. She characteristically came quickly
to the point…“TERRY…GREEN ON TAN?”… This welcomed critique was short,
sweet and well understood and I loved it.

Do I need to tell you that I took her “advice” and made better color
choices in a subsequent printing? I think she knew I would listen to
her comments. I will always remember artist Fanny Mennen for her
undying strength and encouragement.



Where Do I Go From Here?

Chattanooga High School in 1953 was a great place to be, by now
I was 14 years of age and continued studying a well rounded litany
of subjects with an improved negative and consistent “academic”
ranking not looking so good on the charts. My scores proceeded to
project a learning down curve, head shakeingly short of expected
achievement in most subjects accept art, I was so happy I passed
and mom was haply surprised. Eunice B. Kerr was my next
artist/teacher, her outstanding abilities to expose her students to
life experiences as they relate to art came in a way that made
learning interesting and fun. Field trips a plenty to many exciting
places in the course of my high school days.  MORE LATER

 

 

Background as of August, 2009

 

MILITARY: Navy, Veteran.

EDUCATION:
University Of Chattanooga / UTC
Pursuing studies in fine art, graphic design, multi-media
and computer graphics.

CAREER:
Commercial and Fine Art span to date 41 years.
Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce - Arts and Visuals
Department Manager 1961-1971 - V.P. of advertising

Chattanooga Choo-Choo - Entertainment, Complex - Art Director 1971-1981

OWNER, STUDIO WEST:

Self employed. Center of work activity, fine art commissions,
commercial art development - design and illustration, murals
and architectural renderings. Teach private classes in -drawing,
design, painting and composition.

FOCUS OF WORK:
Water Color, Acrylics,Oil and Graphite, multi-media and experimental
abstract, representational and non-representational studies.

REPRESENTED:
In many private and corporate collections in the U.S.A,
Canada and abroad.


COMMISSIONS:
- Residential, Church and Commercial murals.
- 18 works for McDonalds Restaurants.
- Numerous architectural and other renderings and portraits.

MEMBER:
Association for Visual Artist NAIA
National Association of Independent Artist

FAMILY:

Age 72, married, 4 lovely children and many, many lovely grand children. 
And great grand children. Enjoy travel, outdoor recreation, art study a field and living.


___________________________________________________________________________

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AVAILABLE UPON INQUIRY
Studio West, 3628 Highland Terrace Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37415
Phone: 423-875-3160    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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