The Art of Jean Groberg

"Life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint on it you can."

 Danny Kaye   

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It was another morning to paint on Main Street. A demolished building had been extracted between two old buildings leaving a gap like that of a missing tooth. Advertisements, painted on the scarred brick walls of the adjacent buildings, were suddenly revealed. I stepped around the broken bricks and litter onto the empty lot, placed my easel in the shade of the building on the right and began painting a picture of the aged, brick wall.

It was a private place, only ten feet off the sidewalk. I felt quite secure because I was visible to anyone walking by. Shortly before noon, a sturdily built young man, wearing denim and a baseball hat and swaying on a pair of crutches, laboriously jaywalked across the street toward me. His left foot was in a heavy sock. I knew he was going to be my Main Street Friend of the Moment. He moved in close behind me, closer than I preferred, and silently scrutinized the painting.

?ǂWhat are you painting??ǂ he asked. It is the most frequent inquiry made to a plein air painter. The following question is usually, ?ǂHow long does it take you to do a picture??ǂ As he exhaled that question over my shoulder, I was immediately enveloped in an bubble of alcohol fumes, and not very good alcohol at that. I know, because I saw the label. As he leaned against the building he reached under his jacket and offered me a drink out of the bottle in his paper bag. I declined and quickly changed the subject to his foot problem.

He was happy to tell me about the bad foot and quickly whipped off his sock and said, ?ǂSee, I have no toes?ǂ. He was absolutely correct. There was not one toe on that foot, although it appeared from the scars that there had been toes there at one time. He also told me he was a jail trusty up at the Sheriff's Honor Farm about fifteen miles away up in the hills. He had been given a half-day permit to come down and visit a doctor regarding his foot. He produced the signed Permission Slip from the Honor Farm as if there was a need to prove to me that he was out of jail legitimately. I noticed the handwriting on the bottom of the Permission Slip read, "Come Back Sober". I don't think he made it.

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