Inspiration… sometimes you have to search for it and sometimes it hits you in the face. That happened to me a few weeks ago when one of my art students walked up to me at church in a bright yellow dress and jean jacket with her hair in these great little curls. Her name is Courtney, and her family has a great story to tell about overcoming adversity and how hard work pays off. Much of their story revolves around a piece of land they call Elberta’s Place, so what’s an artist to do? I hit the road to find this place and have Courtney put her yellow dress back on.
Three hours later, off the interstate, up the gravel road, and then up a dirt road with holes deep enough to lose a small dog, I arrived at Elberta’s Place. Wait a minute…rewind…there’s more to the story. The owners, my sweet friends Chenedra and Jerry Richardson, bought me lunch before getting to their property. Thank you very much. Afterwards, Chenedra rode in my car and gave me a bit of the history behind the property. In short, and this doesn’t do the story justice, her family worked the property as slaves and in the end came to own it. Look up the property name on Facebook for more of what is going on as they renovate the place.
Earlier I mentioned the gravel road…well, we stopped part the way up this road and Chenedra’s cousin, one of many that live along this road, unlocked the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church that still holds services once a month. I got to go in and poke around. It is a fantastic little church with peeling white paint and needing some roof repair as evidenced by sagging, stained ceiling tiles on the interior. But, the pews are sturdy, and you could tell church had happened recently with hymnals scattered around. This is a proud church that displays all of its past bishops on the wall. What great faces they have, the kind that have history written in every wrinkle. Next door to the church stands the old school house which has been relocated from its original site. It’s paint is peeling even worse than the church’s, but don’t you just love peeling paint? When you enter the school, the first school teacher’s photo is still displayed above the chalkboard. Oh my, it’s that green kind of chalkboard that my kids have never set eyes on, but I remember them. I would call this a one-room school house, but it’s actually two rooms. Across the back is a kitchen, and peering in, you can tell the place is still used for family gatherings. So, here is where I have to put an apology…I didn’t get a single picture of these buildings. A good reason to return, but I was interested in what was up the road.
Getting back in the car we passed the shells of old tractors, boats, trucks and then we came to the dirt road. Yep, the one with the holes. I’m still not sure how I got up that road, but at the top of the hill and at the end of the road was Elberta’s Place, a small white house on 40 acres of the original, much larger farm in the piney woods of east Texas. I unloaded my camera gear and took a bunch of reference photos of Courtney which I will ponder over for a while before deciding how best to bring that bit of inspiration to canvas or paper.
After the photo shoot, Jerry took me on a tour of the property. So many rusty things, so little time. One cool place was an old barn almost covered in brush, that was falling down. Being very curious, and knowing my eternity is in good hands, I crawled under the collapsed corner. There inside was the central structure of a real log barn…the kind I used to build with Lincoln Logs. How cool is that! Well, the sun was too low in the sky and with part of the roof on the ground, there really wasn’t enough light to get good photos of the cool rusty things in this wonderful place. The best I could do is the image of the plow above. Doesn’t it make you wonder what the day was like and the circumstances that surrounded the last time this plow was used?
Oh well, for now I will leave you with some of Courtney’s artwork that she has finished in my drawing class. Enjoy!
Courtney did this piece with red chalk on Ogura paper from a photo of her mom as a young child.
Courtney did this piece with red chalk on Fabriano paper from a photo of her brother, Nicholas.