Well, how did I get here? First, I got in my car in Massachusetts in the fall of 2008 and drove to Portland. Had never been to Portland or Oregon or the Northwest, didn’t know one person, no waiting job. It just seemed like a good idea. A year later I met a woman – now my wife Susan – and through her repeated suggestions to do something while she worked on her pottery, I opened her old set of acrylic paints. I was 59 years old, and had not picked up a paint brush since the fifth grade, 50 years earlier.
Somehow, some way, the painting took over. My original work would have made a fifth-grader blush, in embarrassment , but I kept painting, and little by slow, I got a little better. I took one two-hour lesson once, which wasn’t helpful, and sat in on a free portrait class at the Oregon Society of Artists. I volunteered at the 100th Monkey Studio in Southeast as a janitor for about eight months in exchange for attending a few art therapy groups and some individual drawing lessons with owner Beth Ann Short. That is it for my formal training. What I did do right was begin checking out one art book after another from the Multnomah County Library, how-to books and books about artists and their artist lives. I’ve read hundreds. I started buying used art books and American Art Review magazines on Ebay and at Goodwills and stores like Cameron’s downtown. I’ve studied it all as best as I can with my old and soggy brain cells, and I have tried to honor the painting styles – at least a little – of artists whose work has spoken to me – Robert Henri, John Singer Sargent, Alice Neel are some. I use both oil and acrylic paints on stretched canvas or canvas sheets, each painting kind of tells me what it wants.
I have had a number of public showings of my paintings in Portland coffee shops and restaurants, with more scheduled for the fall. I was a Portland RAW artist in 2012. I have pinched myself a few times, driving by a business and seeing my art on the walls, and knowing I have a paintings in peoples’ houses across the country. Me? A few months ago I begin created a line of greeting cards, color reproductions of my paintings. I’ve had an Etsy store for a few years, since the beginning I guess, but I sold almost nothing until the greeting cards. Those have sold okay in the last few months, and I am really proud of them. The printer does a great job, the paper quality and color reproduction is outstanding, but mostly because it feels like I am taking part in some continuum of kindness. How great is it to get a beautiful card in the mail, with some words from a friend or family member inside instead of a mailbox filled with just bills and junk mail. And how great is it to send someone one of those cards? It is all about being kind, and I have heard the most wonderful stories from people about buying the cards, who they are sending them to, and why. It’s pretty cool.
I left a 35 year career in human services three years ago, signed up for Social Security, met a guy on line and wrote and produced a CD of original doo wop music, and began painting more and more. I also began writing again. I have a WordPress blog where I post weekly, and have a couple of novels in their infancy.
I have sold one painting for more than $100, the rest around $35. So when I say I am living in part on the sale of my art, that gets me a few cups of coffee a week. And a burrito dinner with my wife. But the library is free, walking around this beautiful city is free, writing on WordPress is nearly free, and I can say I own my own on-line store, and that I am an artist and a writer. Not bad for an old guy.”
You can see Buddy’s on-line gallery at http://www.67blondies.artistwebsites.com
His Etsy Shop at www.etsy.com/shop/musicflower67
his blog at http://www.buddycushmanart.com
Follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/67blondies
The doo wop CD can be heard at www.facebook.com/thegrayjays
Much of this story can be read on-line in the Portland Magazine Project:Poppycock, where I am a featured local artist this month. www.projectpoppycock.com