Musings from the Hill, Sept. 24, 2015
“A CELEBRATION OF TOM”—There will be an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Lumberyard Arts Center to honor of the late local legend Tom Russell. Professor Walt Bailey will be in charge of this historic exhibit. It will be a four-part show — the early years, Kansas City Art Institute years, Baker years and his retirement years. He painted almost every day until he was 97 years old.The show closes on Oct. 24. Do not miss this historic tribute to Tom. This information was given to me by Paula Johnson who handles the publicity, etc. per infinitum, for the Lumberyard Arts Center. Thank you, Paula, for all your kind attention for many years.
Tricia Jewett-Spencer, my daughter who teaches aspiring artists around the country, is completing another degree at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture and Ecological Design; Tricia called from Mexico to leave her final tribute to Tom (she was in Mexico to finish a mural of rare birds of Mexico with a local artist).
She said, “Tom was a great painter as well as a valued friend. One day, I told him I felt as if I was hitting a great wall and was making no progress as a painter. Tom said, ‘Every artist hits a wall at one time or another.’ We had a great conversation and he told me, ‘The simplest solution was if you feel you want to paint, just go outside and do it!’
“These words have stayed with me for many years. If you “hit a wall,” go out in the plein air alone or with your students. I will forever be grateful to Tom for his counsel which has enabled me and my students to paint many great plein air paintings.”
Mary Swan and I would have tea with Tom on quite a few occasions, and we would reminisce about the good old days. We enjoyed many times together. Tom and I recalled the times we went to school in first and second grades. The memories were very similar, like in the songs we sang. Even though we were in different states, our experiences were quite similar. Like, the days of knickers and neck-ties for the boys and hats and white gloves for the girls for Sunday school and church. When we were young playing in safety in woods and neighborhood. I will miss these visits between the three of us, Tom, Mary Swan and me.
Not many of us would have the opportunity to leave behind a legacy like the one Tom is leaving. During long ago wars, when I was young, many soldiers wrote “Kilroy was here” as signatures of their passage. Tom’s beautiful paintings will forever live on.
Every time I gaze upon "Margret’s High Pasture," I still call it “Tom’s Hill.” We will miss you, Tom.
Again, I would like to thank Sarah Baker with The Baker Orange newspaper for her help with my columns, for without help I couldn’t continue.