Hamilton, Ontatio, CA

1:17 PM

The house where I type this sits on land that has been in our family for over 150 years. And I must say, it’s been a great place to be while off the road and writing. Living down south for as long as I did, it’s been awesome to be close to a lot of my family. My parents are here, my sister 20 minutes away, and my aunt, uncle and cousin, next door. As much as I am ready to hit the open road once the book is out, this is a great time in my life.

Three years ago the family took a bold step and decided to expand on the cottages that were here. They knocked down two 100 year old cottages and a double wide that stood watch over the land. In their place, they built the two homes that are here now. Prior to the demolition, I pleaded and prodded for them to get a painting done of the previous cottages. The door to their mind was slightly opened, but a man sitting down the street painting a house knocked the door in. There was Harry, a 90 year old man, water coloring a beautiful, detailed rendition of the house. My dad struck up a conversation and the next thing you know, the man from Hamilton, Ontario, CA was sitting on our beach, examining the land for the best angle. A few weeks later, the beach and houses that I will always remember were on paper, forever.

My parents have a copy hanging over the fireplace as do my aunt and uncle. I had a copy in my room in Charlotte, but now it is in my storage shed with all of my other things. Harry’s partner of 9 years came to visit on Tuesday and left this morning. She brought with her a copy of the painting Harry did for my sister. Harry died in May.

Marion was on a journey to make sure all of the work Harry did got to its owners. She brought with her our painting, but also a book of over 250 paintings this incredibly talented man had done. There were houses, people, landscapes, and flowers. You name it, the detail he brought to the page was vivid. He put you there. I think that is a great thing to say about an artist, when they put you at the scene. We can do it as writers with our words, but painters have no margin for error. Harry was the man.

And as Marion sat with us and talked about Harry and what he was like, I felt like I knew him. He was born into poverty in England, but his talent won him entry to a prized art school at age 12. As I tell people in my talks, if you have a talent, let it shine because amazing things will happen. He was a graphic artist for an ad agency in Hamilton for most of his life and didn’t truly start his painting career until the 1990’s. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. She said he had to paint everyday. And that’s what he did. They traveled form city to city and Harry would paint.

What I find interesting is that Harry painted to paint, that’s it. His work would go into a drawer or closet. He didn’t care about selling them and getting rich. And man, he could have. And maybe he will. They say artist’s fame grows once they pass. But you can do a Google search on Harry Skinner and find nothing. For him, painting was all about the doing. And that is why it was so good. He did it for himself. It also happened others loved it, but he wasn’t thinking about the customer or the audience, he was thinking about capturing the moment.

As Marion drove back to Canada this morning, she left a piece if Harry with me. A dead man who I’d never met before caused me to sit down and analyze. Awesome.