Friday, January 29, 2010

Trucking along...

This was a decent week for painting. Much progress made. Hopefully by the end of the day tomorrow, two more faces will be completed. I expect that by this time next week, another 6 individuals will be completed and their bios logged. As you can see, I'm starting to work more expansively and therefore, a bit quicker. 
For those of you interested, there will be a major celebration in Greensboro, NC. I'm not sure about what's on the menu and where the foci will be, but the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro 4 sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter will be taking place on Monday, February 1. Ann Simpson at the SOG e-mailed and asked if I was planning to attend the event. I should go but decided against going. For no other reason than it will take a couple days out of painting. The last time I did that when I had to attend the Innovation Institute in Charlotte, it took me a couple days to get my head back in the game. I'm afraid of doing that again. I have set mental goals for the painting and want to stay on schedule. My goal is to have the entire area between the two 'chefs' to the left and a couple others to the far right completed before the end of February. That will place me beyond the half way point. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

George Henry White and Harvey Beech

George Henry White and Harvey Beech
George Henry White was a Republican U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1897 and 1901. He is considered the last African American Congressman of the Reconstruction era, although his election came twenty years after the era's "official" end. By the time of his election, Reconstruction had long since been overturned throughout almost all of the South, making it impossible for blacks to be elected to federal office. After White left office, no other black American would serve in Congress until Oscar De Priest was elected in 1928; no other black American would be elected to Congress from the South until after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960'.

Born in Rosindale, North Carolina, White first attended private "old field" schools, before entering public schools after the Civil War. He was then educated at Whitin Normal School in Lumberton, N.C., before entering Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1874. After graduating from Howard in 1877, he studied law privately and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1879, practicing in New Bern, North Carolina. He taught school in New Bern and later became principal of the New Bern State Normal School, one of four training institutions for African American teachers created by the legislature in 1881.
White entered politics as a Republican in 1880. He was elected to a single term in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1880, and then to the North Carolina Senate in 1884 from Craven County, N.C. In 1886, he was elected solicitor and prosecuting attorney for the second judicial district of North Carolina, a post he held until 1894.
A delegate to the 1896 and 1900 Republican National Conventions, White was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1896 and re-elected in a three-way race in 1898. As North Carolina Democrats changed laws and intimidated blacks from voting, he chose not to seek a third term and returned to law and banking. He delivered his final speech on January 29, 1901. "This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress," he said, "but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force."
White was an early officer in the National Afro-American Council, a nationwide civil rights organization created in 1898. White moved in 1906 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he practiced law and operated a commercial savings bank. He also founded the town of Whitesboro, N.J., as a real estate development. After the Council dissolved in 1908, he was also an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which formed its Philadelphia chapter in 1913. He died in Philadelphia in in 1918, and is buried at Eden Cemetery nearby.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope For Haiti

Harvey E. Beech

What an absolutely horrible day of painting! Nearly a complete waste of time. I was working on the portrait of George White and needless to say, I must have insulted the man in some other life because he was not cooperating. I had to re-sketch him many times before both of us were happy. I tried to apply some paint but apparently he had had enough and finally told me to walk away and leave him alone until tomorrow. Hopefully both of us will benefit from a decent meal and a good night of sleep and tomorrow we can begin again.

The dapper Mr. Harvey Beech on the other hand couldn't have been more pleasant. I have a few tweaks that will occur after George and I settle our dispute tomorrow but other than that, we're both smiling.

click to enlarge
Harvey E. Beech was born in Kinston, North Carolina, in 1923, the youngest of five children. Although Beech's father could not read or write, he saved his money and opened barbershops throughout the Kinston community. His business acumen afforded most of his children the opportunity to attend college. His youngest son, Harvey, however, was sent to Harris Barber College in Raleigh, North Carolina, since his older siblings' education had taken its toll on their father's bank account. Harvey's academic drive and passion for education led him to pursue a college degree. He earned enough money to attend Morehouse College, and his self-reliance, independence, and passion for changing social injustices propelled his interest in a legal career. To earn money for law school, he promoted black entertainers and opened a general store. In the early 1950s, Thurgood Marshall asked Beech to join a pending case against the University of North Carolina School of Law. Beech joined the case, along with J. Kenneth Lee. In 1951, Beech and Lee, along with James Lassiter, Floyd McKissick, and James Walker, became the first African American students to enroll at the UNC law school. Beech candidly discusses the psychological impact of desegregating an all-white institution, including his anger at having to give up his swimming pool privileges because of his race. He evaluates the strength of racism in American society, while adamantly arguing that the abandonment of racial discrimination and racial identities would eliminate barriers among all races and ethnicities.

LGFCU credit

If anyone has been reading these blog posts since the commission began, then you know that the project was dead until the Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) stepped in and funded the mural. Once again, THANKS! In an effort to highlight their involvement, I made it a point to include their logo in the mural in a couple places that didn't stand out too much. After posting the image of Abraham Galloway last night, I realized that I missed a perfect opportunity on the coffee cup he was holding.

I copied their logo in a vector program and painted it in this morning. Maybe I'll have a contest at the end of the painting to see if you can spot how many references to the credit union there are in the painting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Abraham Galloway

Finally finished Mr. Galloway this morning. If I am not mistaken, there is a filmmaker in Chapel Hill preparing to shoot a documentary about Abraham's short but illustrious life. For a man that was born a slave and died at the age of thirty-three, you will be amazed at what he accomplished and see why he was chosen by historians for representation in this painting.

click on image for larger view
Biography: Abraham H. Galloway's mother was a seventeen-year-old slave, and his white father, John Wesley Galloway, was the son of a wealthy Brunswick County planter. Marsden Milton Hankins, a railroad mechanic (skilled artisan) and prosperous citizen of Wilmington, owned Abraham Galloway from infancy. Galloway received training as a brick mason and was allowed to work independently, as long as he earned enough to give his owner fifteen dollars each month. Craving freedom, Galloway escaped from Wilmington on a ship going north and arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 1857. From there he journeyed to the safety of Ontario, Canada, and became a spokesman for abolition. He maintained close contacts with abolitionists in Massachusetts and probably helped other fugitive slaves reach the safety of Canada. After the outbreak of war, Galloway returned to North Carolina to work for the liberation of African Americans.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anna Holland

Anna Welthy Daughtry Holland (1871-1934)

Annie was an educator and promoter of public education for blacks. She was born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, on land adjacent to the Welthy (also spelled Wealthy) plantation, the daughter of Sarah Daughtry and J. W. Barnes . Her grandfather Friday Daughtry had been born and raised a slave but during the 1860s was freed by the Welthy family. Annie had been named after Annie Welthy of the Welthy plantation.

I took an inordinate amount of time with Anna's image. I painted her with a wider brush with the intention of limiting the amount of detail. There are basically four different levels of portraits in the painting. The Greensboro Four stand in the forefront and are therefore rendered with the most detail and contrast. Anna starts the second tier of images so I tried to dull her out just a bit to try and create a depth of field. Click on the image below to expand it and you can see the difference in styles. The two guys standing behind her (tier three) will be even more faded. I'm finding out the hard way that painting lighter is more time consuming than the larger and more detailed images. I started on the guy to her left (Abraham Galloway) late today and will finish him on Saturday - I have to go to Charlotte to the McColl Center for Visual Art to attend a session of The Innovation Institute. That's two solid days of painting I will miss - a bummer since I'm in the groove right now, but hey, gotta do what you gotta do. By the way, she will eventually be holding a menu. I have an image of one of the original menu's used at the Woolworth lunch counter. I'll design one that looks consistent with the original but add in some interesting facts about that day for people to read.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Greensboro Four

The starring four are finally complete (until I mess with them again). 

Now that they're done, the piece is starting to gain momentum. I've made it a point to paint everyday - which for me is a lot considering the fact that I don't like to paint that much. The only reason I do is because it's the only way I can see and share what's in my head with others. Make sense?

Larger detailed images and bios of Jibreel Khazan and Franklin McCain are posted beneath their pics after the break.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2 down, 38 to go

Today's near completion is David Richmond - number two of the Greensboro Four. You can read his bio after the break.

David Richmond was one of the original four who started the Woolworth Sit-ins. He was born in  Greensboro and graduated from Dudley High School, where he was one of the most popular students. During high school, he belonged to many clubs and participated in many sports. He was on the track team and in 1959 he set the state high jump record. At North Carolina A & T State University he majored in Business Administration and Accounting. After leaving A & T he became a counselor-coordinator for the CETA program in Greensboro. Forced to leave Greensboro because his life was threatened, he lived in the mountain community of Franklin for nine years. 

When his elderly parents became ill he returned to Greensboro to take care of them. David is the only one of the four that returned to live in Greensboro and he had a hard time finding a job as he had to fight the stigma of being a troublemaker. Finally, he was able to find work as a janitor for the Greensboro Health Care Center. In 1980, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Levi Coffin Award for "leadership in human rights, human relations, and human resources development in Greensboro."

David was married and divorced twice, fathering three children. David battled many demons as he grew older, including alcoholism, and a sadness that he could not do more to improve the world he lived in. Richmond died in Greensboro on Dec. 7, 1990. He was 49 years old. A & T awarded him a posthumous honorary doctorate degree. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In My Top 5ive

Every now and then you run across an artist that makes you stop and wonder what the moment must have been like when the art gods stretched forth from the heavens to anoint someone with the gift. If you consider such an artist a close friend and in my case, a certified mentor you have access to, then you are truly blessed. In my humble opinion, Tyrone Geter is such an artist.

Currently an art professor at Benedict College in Columbia, SC., he is a master of many styles but none so moving as his charcoal / multimedia drawings. The ease at which he composes visual narratives that shed insight into the African American experience is both baffling and exhilarating. His talent is only surpassed by his willingness to discuss and share with other peasant artists like myself who make it a point to hold him hostage whenever I can (and feed him) then make him impart the knowledge. Make it a point to spend some time on his site and you will begin to understand what I have known for some time now and am finally sharing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

Glad to be back after the holiday break. I had to shut down and deal with all the stuff that the season called for. Our home was the family gathering place for Christmas and that meant my time to paint was limited. I found myself distracted and finally made the decision to just shut down until after everyone was gone. Now that I'm back to the canvas full time, the painting is going well and I'm feeling the groove again. When last I wrote, I was trying to have the four main figures completed before Christmas. Yeah, right. That's okay. I finished Joseph McNeill today with the exception of the hair which will have to wait until the background goes in.

Tomorrow I move on to David Richmond and hopefully will have him completed before the day is over. I can't tell you how much of a momentum boost it is to finally be able to look upon a face. After all the planning, research, gallery renovations, paperwork, canvas preparations, sketching and tedious prep work - the fun is starting. Seeing him standing there is like having a friend to talk to while I'm working. I'll have to hurry and complete his friends. As this process develops and I add more images as I complete them, I fell as though it is necessary to give you some background on these extraordinary people. Since Mr. Joseph McNeil is up first, here's a little about him:

Joseph McNeil was one of the original four NC A&T students taking part in the historic Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, NC. (the Greensboro Four). On February 1, 1960, they sat at a segregated lunch counter in the Greensboro, NC, Woolworth's store. This lunch counter only had chairs/stools for whites, while blacks had to stand and eat. Although they were refused service, they were allowed to stay at the counter. The four students were aware that Woolworth’s would not serve blacks at their lunch counter but they sat down anyway, engaging themselves in a plan they had been discussing for a month prior to the sit-in. A Wilmington, NC native, he graduated from Williston Senior High School. Soon after high school, his parents moved the family to New York, where he was able to experience a much more open society. Joe came to North Carolina A & T State University on full scholarship, and found it hard to live in the segregated South. His roommate at Scott Hall on the A & T campus was another sit-in participant, Ezell Blair, Jr. Joe's breaking point came after Christmas vacation, when he returned by bus from New York, and was not served a hot dog at the Greensboro Greyhound terminal.

McNeil earned a degree in engineering physics from NC A & T in 1963. Thirty minutes after graduating, Joe McNeil was commissioned by the U. S. Air Force, and he spent six years as an officer and attained the rank of captain. He recently retired from Air Force Reserves, having achieved the rank of Major General. During his tenure in the Air Force, he started a series of diversity programs, which profoundly changed the culture of that institution. He worked in computer sales for IBM, as a commercial banker for Bankers Trust in New York City, and as a stockbroker for E.F. Hutton in Fayetteville. He now resides in Hempstead, NY. He is married to the former Ina Brown and they have five children.