Painting the Big Umbrella

Here’s another in a series of paintings based on some photo experimentation I was doing a few years back. This one is of the area around Nolen plaza and the giant umbrella sculpture by Claes Oldenburg here in sunny Des Moines.

Robert Reeves, The Big Umbrella (unfinished), latex paint on maple panel, 2014
Robert Reeves, The Big Umbrella (unfinished), latex paint on maple panel, 2014

Damn, but I do love me some house paint. I don’t know what it is about using latex paint on wood panels that makes me so happy. Is it the immediacy? It dries so quickly that I can accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but acrylics do that too. Maybe it’s the buckets of paint and letting myself be a little sloppy. That certainly appeals to the little kid in me. But maybe it’s the Summers spent painting the rental units my parents owned as a kid.

We had a couple of old houses in different parts of town that my parents rented out for several years. One had actually been my grandparents’ house during their time in Iowa… I loved that house. It wasn’t anything fancy and it certainly wasn’t big (barely a 2 bedroom), but it was cozy and inviting. I spent a lot of my childhood there hanging out with my grandmother. She taught me a lot about living simply, kindness, and most of all Patience. Lessons I didn’t know I was learning at the time. I’d wake up and my Dad would have brushes, rollers, paint, and ladders all laid out for me. He’d send me off with his instructions and a few bucks to pick up some lunch. I’d grab my super awesome Sony Walkman cassette player, a few of my favorite mix tapes, and hit the road. Now I’m not saying I loved every minute of it. I didn’t. I really didn’t. It was hard work in hot weather. It was dirty, sweaty, and potentially lead-based. It was the last thing a teenage boy wanted to be doing with his Summer. Looking back though it was nice to be my own boss for a few days. Listening to tunes. Scraping away the old and making it new again. I may not have loved it at the time, but I can see where it’s gotten me.

*sniff*… Dealing with some feels here… Who knew I could get so sentimental over something I used to dislike so much?

Going to have to hit the Woodsmith’s store later. I’m out of panels and I’ve got so much more painting to do.

Here’s to the long Summers of our youth. Pray we don’t forget them.

Thanks, Dad.



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