The Bracher Paintings: “Nostalgia Field”

Some friends of mine were intersted in hiring me to do a painting for them, so we agreed to enter into a business relationship and figure out the what, how much, and whens of the matter.  It’s always interesting when the relationship switches from “friends” to “clients”, but it worked out pretty well.  We had a few discussions about conceptually what they – well, what she wanted (the husband was merely the financial backer on the deal, although I’m pretty sure she makes more than he does, but at least he got to feel good about something), and after a few sketches and adjustments, we had our painting planned out.  Nonetheless, those ideas were trashed about a month later…and with good reason.

First, some background.  Mark and I play baseball together and have done so for about 10 years now. And yes, it’s actual baseball with a pitcher throwing overhand and actual wooden baseball bats. We have uniforms and everything.  He’s got to be close to 50 and I’ve got to be close to 40 at this point…so it’s not like the skill level is impressive (unless you consider the fact that to be as old as we are, it’s still “impressive” that we can do anything active at all).  Anyway, Mark’s wife, Pam, was the one calling the shots in regards to the creative direction of the painting.  But, since she’s been stuck having to hear about Mark’s baseball endeavors for the past however many years, she figured it made sense to include an element of baseball into the painting on some level.  Her main stipulation, however, was that there was to be zero reference to Lookout Mountain in the painting.  Why, you ask? I’ll tell ya.

Burned out. Overdone. Too cliche. Seen it. Lived it. Even been to Rock City. Twice. You see, in Chattanooga, TN, our main iconic icon is Lookout Mountain. So much history. So much National recognition. So many local artists photographing it, painting it, drawing it (ahem, myself included) so that it literally is everywhere you go in and around Chattanooga.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Lookout Mountain…but we all agreed that it didn’t need to appear in the painting.  Plus, they had recently hired Brent Sanders (a local artist whose main vocation is painting…as opposed to those lesser artists who can only do it as an avocation) to do a painting of downtown Chattanooga with Lookout Mountain in the background (and it looks awesome, by the way).  So, no worries. No Lookout Mountain. (Sidenote: it’s very cool to say that I’m hanging on the same wall as Brent Sanders! Well sort of – it’s in a different room…but still…I mean, that counts, right?)

Also of note is that we’d agreed to do a three-panelled painting with the scene stretching across from panel to panel.  I’d always wanted to do one like that, and they were open to it, so that’s what we decided.  So, getting back to filling in the background to this story, we agreed to have a baseball field stretching across two or three of the panels.  We weren’t sure yet if we’d show players on the field or not, but we knew we’d have non-Lookout mountains in the background, a good deal of color, and a nice sky above.  So, in January of 2009, sitting at Taco Mac, the three of us had finished planning the painting.  It wasn’t until around February of 2009 (i.e., one month later) that I abandoned that plan for something even better.

Driving through historic St. Elmo, there is a road the runs along the foot of Lookout Mountain.  Highway 193 is a beautiful drive that essentially begins at the base of the Incline (oh, you haven’t heard of it? It’s the other thing you can do on Lookout Mountain besides Rock City and Ruby Falls – both of which are pretty cool, by the way) and runs down into Georgia along the base of Lookout.  St. Elmo’s homes are beautiful, if you ever feel like house-seeing, and after you pass the huge and hugely-unexpected junkyard, the drive down 193 is quite scenic.  So, one day, the wife and I had our eldest nephew with us for a drive, and we stumbled upon something really neat.

An old, abandoned baseball field in the middle of nowhere.  The infield was still distinguishable, and home plate was still alive, albeit barely.  The outfiled was about 3 feet tall of these beautiful amber-orange grasses (maybe it was wheat, maybe it was wild rye, I’m sure some farmer knows what it was but for us there were just “tall grasses”).  A line of trees in the background. A ridge behind that line of trees.  And behind that ridge, off in the distance, were mountains…and not just ANY mountains.  They were non-Lookout Mountains!  Perfect!

We took pictures of the area for about an hour (that’s my nephew in the photo above, in the “outfield”).  I sent the Brachers some photos and said, “This – this is what we should use instead”.  And so it was – we’d found a random baseball field that hijacked the painting – and it was perfect.

So, it took about 5 months (?) to finish it once I got started. It wasn’t exactly what we had in mind when we first discussed ideas, but as with most things, the real meaning and directing emerged all on their own. Yes, they liked the finished pieces enough to hire me for another project, but the best confirmation I received was from their daughter, Taryn.  Her reaction is documented in the blog about “Art Theory – Part 2″.  Here is the final painting on their wall but there are some detailed photos in the “Artistic” section of this website, as well.

There’s plenty more to tell on this one, but the bottom line is that we were able to work to acheive the end goal, and all parties involved were pleased.  They still talk to me (you know when you start doing “business” with friends, like that guy you used to work with but he left the company to go sell Life insurance and now when he invites you to lunch, you know he’s going to pressure you into buying something from him so now you don’t really care too much to hang around the guy because, well, we were just friends but now I don’t want to give you money, man – really, I don’t – and now all your conversations are awkward and guarded? Well, it’s not like that, so we’re cool) and as a matter of fact we are about to go on a road-trip for pizza up to Oak Ridge to see what this “Big Ed’s” place is all about.  Can’t wait.

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