The KINGs Painter™
"You may delay, but time will not." - Benjamin Franklin
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All rights reserved worldwide Ⓒ 2019 Carroll Burgoon
Photograph of Carroll
by his friend Allen Rich,
publisher, North Texas
e-News, for a story he
wrote about Carroll's daily
experience with Sr. Alcaraz
in 1994. The beautifully
framed painting, Perfectly
Loved, shows the roof line
of Alcaraz' centuries old
atelier where Carroll
studied, Saldaña de Ayllón,
"My teacher began his career as a carver of picture frames. He carved and gold-leafed two frames for my paintings
while I was studying painting with him in Spain. Alcaraz was very, very quick, carving right- and left-handed. He was
a joy to watch, biting his tongue like an excited, enrapt child with a new toy. Alcaraz made all of his own frames
for each of his paintings. Certainly the Louvre, the Prado, the Metropolitan, the Picasso Museum, kings, queens, actors,
Hall of Fame athletes, and the world's wealthiest all recognized the provenance and his virtuosity, and treasured both.
His frames hold the all-time greatest masterpieces found in the world. I am honored that two hold my 'old' paintings.
Where are Sheikha Mayassa Al-Thani and Dr. Albert C. Barnes now, my friend? Tsk. Tsk.
So many techniques, innovations, insights, and stories ... I could teach an eclectic art class and consult. What fun!
But where? Who'd ever listen to a sextagenarian in this day and age? Maybe I'll just paint, write, and publish, and
guest lecture, professing they're all retirement projects, and train for the Senior Games National Championships.
The ruthless J.R. Ewing wryly chimed, 'Never underestimate the elderly!' ('Dallas,' the world's favorite television series)
So, who would ever have imagined 'my sweet little paintings' ever selling for more than $10,000 per square inch!"
The KINGs Painter™
Day #1 in Spain, July 5th 1994.
Dear Diary, to gird my courage I jumped off a bungee tower 7x's. At the Dallas airport I was advised to cash a traveler's check for pesetas before departure. As I stood in the queue I realized that my checks and passport were in my zippered travel pouch beneath my belt and tucked-in shirt, above my rump. That led to a fine young lady spotting me in seat 22B as she came down the aisle, and saying, "Oh no, it's you," but, that is another story! Anyway, I'd marveled at my star spangled send off with fireworks shooting toward us from baseball diamonds lining our route from Dallas to Philly. At 33,000' we were safe and had a spectacular view. It was Independence Day.
The morning of July fifth we touched down in Madrid (MAD) at sunrise. I deplaned with my backpack, day pack, paints, brushes, and 10 quartered sheets of watercolour paper and was greeted with my new teacher's pair of welcoming cheek kisses and an "abrazo." So, off to the bus terminal we scurried, led by "Paco" (Don Francisco Alcaraz), as I knew him, and his aristocratic Brazilian lady friend. All of our stops were unplanned along a few hours of highway lined with armed, military green clad, Guardias Civiles. The red clay hillsides reminded me of my bicycle racing days in Georgia. The high of 7 bungee jumps a few days before waxed and waned as my adventure really took off. I did not view art as a career choice at any previous time, nor did I in Spain. It was the thrill of doing something no person would choose, you know, just drop everything and go. Art?
At 9:30 AM the bus snorted to a stop, belched once or twice, and my feet scuffed down metal steps onto the hard red clay in my 6-ounce racing flats. Oh boy! Or, "Boy howdy" as I had learned to say in Texas (We'd said say, "Sheesh" in Pennsylvanian).
Why make it easy to learn something new? Paco didn't speak English. I'd taken art 101 in 7th grade, art appreciation in 11th grade, and I didn't know diddly about my teacher. My last Spanish class was 22 years before. That about sums it up.
His Brazilian friend said Paco was an orphan at seven and at nine was the youngest in hundreds of years to be admitted to a prestigious art school. I was half listening. She added that he had labored diligently on his first assignment for two weeks to win the applause of his esteemed teacher. When Paco presented his "gem" to the great man it unceremoniously exploded into the air and crashed into the hungry flames of the atelier fireplace. His teacher knew the genius of his student, and demanded that. For some reason the story made me nervous. That was his first story? Sheesh.
We walked into town on a dirt road past rustic adobes and skirted an ancient Catholic church, on Calle Alcaraz! At 10:00 AM (UTC +1), my first painting lesson began. "He wants you to watch what he does and do it," his England-schooled multilingual (5 languages) friend told me. Painting #1 (above, but intentionally mislabeled #3 on the back) was of Paco's favorite landscape, the sole reason why he bought the Medieval shepherd's adobe in the foothills of a ski resort ... what a spectacular view. It was 105° F and I was hung over with a bad case of jet lag. I fought on because it was a moment of truth.
I struggled with sketching the perspective, then cautiously, carefully, meticulously painted using ochre, cerulean blue, viridian and sap green - Hey that's what I had on my paint tray ... And she said, "He wants me to tell you that there are more than two colors of green, and to stand at the balcony looking down at that sapling until you tell him how many colours of green you see." Twenty minutes later, to end my torture, I blurted "at least 1,000." Paco was satisfied and I dodged another minute of blurry pain.
Paco beckoned with one rugged, swollen carver's hand, the other clutched my beautiful landscape. The lady's thick Brazilian accent intoned, "He wants you to follow him." I did. In his workshop (an "atelier") I felt the crisp slap of a cold, aged, metal ruler on the face of my first masterpiece. An unfolded blue pocketknife surgically bisected my painting in one short, quick stroke. He pivoted in the doorway and returned to finish an oleo on the second story balcony. And, his lady friend said, "He wants you to know you have two paintings. Go fix them." I didn't know the summer sun could be so hot. I buried the smaller piece in a waste basket, thinking he wouldn't ask about it. He did the next morning. I have no idea what happened to that piece. But, I'd kept the nicer part.
One night after dinner, so at about midnight, Paco opened a book of his friend Picasso's stains and traced the brush strokes with his fingers as he explained how the icon made them. It was a religious experience, better than a campfire story with four wolves following you ten feet away on a remote logging trail in a moon-blinding fog.
Many stories and lessons to share. But, let's jump to the end because this is too long already. Paco, his lady friend, and I stood together as the oily, black exhaust of a creaking bus swept past our highway marker. As I climbed the shiny balding steps, the lady said, "An artist is born." Like a proud papa, Paco handed me his blue pocketknife. Looking back from my starboard window I saw that he was crying.
I was astonished by what people were willing to pay for my paintings, but it was simply too much. As I became more confident, what I used to paint in 1.5 months I was doing in two or three days, and what I did in two or three days, I was doing in two minutes. I couldn't believe there was a soul on earth who would buy "my old stuff." That personal valuation left me pondering if I was the real deal, or just a fancy fabricator.