Print artist Earl Newman’s renown doesn’t dim his welcoming kindness. Our adios was exchanged as I drove from his Oregon country place. With his good wishes my autumn journey continued to what was next: painting study with Sarkis Antikajian in Lane County. During this workshop another student mentioned Newman. Awhile ago at the Corvallis Art Center he’d spoken with Earl’s about his tree landscape paintings.
Country Life Since 2009, I’d sometimes studied with artist Sarkis Antikajian. In September it was outside at his rural home. Cold mornings, gracious afternoon lunch breaks followed by paint exercises in still life, landscape, and figure filled the three days. Some lessons to live by were taken away:
– build stamina to paint continuously in less than ideal weather
(on the third cold morning Sarkis finally donned a sweatshirt)
– develop ease and keep loose by painting loosely and loving color
– paintings are not precious objects but evidence of necessary experience,
a way of being amidst a bounty of colorful work housed in his studio
Weaving West On my meandering drive through the Oregon Coast Range to Newport, Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer played nonstop. Autumn woods surrounded Highway 20. Last in Newport 19 years ago while on a nearby Beverly Beach camping trip, two places called me now.
First was the October retrospective show, All That Jazz, at the Visual Arts Center celebrating Earl Newman’s 50 years of creating Monterey Jazz Festival posters (also in the Smithsonian). The scope of his work reminded me of the mark his distinctive prints have left on our era and place.
During the evening I recalled being in other spaces with native son Rick Bartow. First it was in the last 1980s at the bygone Jamison Gallery in Portland. This year’s UO Art Museum opening reception for Bartow’s retrospective exhibit, Things You Know But Cannot Explain, was another memorable time. Now on this trip, it was at Newport’s Cafe Mundo, a community spot where I’d not been and where Rick Bartow and the Backseat Drivers are the house band. Catching a couple sets of rich lyrics, fine voices, and great music from Bartow playing with Barbara Turrill was pure contentment. The meaning of community was realized, alive and in action all along my trip.
Over an afternoon repast, artist Earl Newman and I swapped tales of our times in 1960s southern California. Arriving from the northeast, he lived with his family in their car, camped around the Bay Area and found temporary housing in Berkeley. He was a street painter and created portable roll-up murals for the hip buyer’s “pad.” When another painter needed to get work to a southern California gallery, Earl did the driving. He soon set up his family, print studio, and gallery in Venice during the jazzy beat era of Pacific Coast hipness. He continues using the same silkscreen setup from his earlier Venice studio.
Earl Newman prints illustrate our times. He shared some clues to his success:
– be at the right place at the right time and say “yes”
– weigh things to make sure not to do something regrettable
– take courage
– when your work is rejected, heed the personal one-on-one opinion then move on to another opinion
A view from Newman was included in the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts website’s event description for his October show, All That Jazz, “. . . the older I get I realize I have a companion in my art interest that’s not going to leave me.”
Before leaving his country home, Earl’s acrylic paintings caught my eye; some were distinctive tree landscapes. I soon departed to Lane County through forest and valley for more study in oil painting. How satisfying knowing what he said to me, “we’re still on the road.”
Notable silkscreen printer Earl Newman moved to Oregon around the time I did. Our journeys were within a West Coast diaspora, fleeing the Golden State in the early 1970s. Over 40 years later, we caught up with each other in September at his country home.
On The Wall My first place was near the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. Setting the scene in the living room was an emblematic SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)
poster by Earl Newman. A young Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Jackson Browne walked up those steps for dinner and music above a garage. Google now shows that address with barred doors and windows, greenery gone to concrete.
SoCal Business In the late 1960s I was part of a successful business in Long Beach. Tour buses stopped at our large mercantile. Earl Newman prints sold there. A buying trip to Venice meant savoring boho spirit and his distinctive, creative expertise in his productive canal studio.
Connecting Five years ago I found Earl at his print booth during one of my rare Oregon Country Fair visits. We shared our past and exodus from southern California decades ago. My 2014 online order of Newman prints arrived with his kind note. A year later, I took him up on an invitation to visit. I found my way through the Oregon backwoods to his home studio where he’s been for 43 years. The trip seemed an abiding pursuit and unbroken circle of community.