What inspires you?
"School Days" 8"x6" oil on linen © 2011 Brian Kliewer
I have to say that I honestly feel this is one of the best things I've ever done. I almost didn't want to sell it. This painting carries a lot of emotion with it. As I mentioned when I first posted it, I grew up on this street. Vivid memories are built into it....mostly good ones...but some that still haunt me to this day. I think this is one of the reasons it came out as well as it did.
So much of who I am today came from here....these were the formative years. I did my first "real" painting here. I saw my first shooting star here. My first heartbreaking crush was experienced here. My first understanding of human death also came from here. I went from the joy of stomping my feet in puddles to seeing my grandmother in her casket. And it was here I remember first hearing about my cousin coming back from Vietnam after having his legs blown off. I didn't know what that meant. I just couldn't understand it...any of it.
Most of the memories are good ones, though. I had the time of my life here. I still remember my mother allowing us to stay out after 8 one evening and seeing some of the biggest snowflakes I'd ever seen. To this day I don't think I've seen bigger. And they were wet! You know what that means....yes, we had one of the biggest snowball fights EVER! It was a blast! One girl in particular caught a very heavy snowball in the back of the head. I'm not going to tell you who it was that threw it. ;)
The road in winter was never plowed all the way down the hill. The snowplow usually stopped in front of our house, or about where the viewer is standing. So we often had a nice large snowbank right out in front of the house. The lower half of the road was too rocky with solid ledge, so the plows never completed a run. They'd always come down as far as our house, stop and then back up. I never complained because that meant excellent snow sledding! I'd often stay out until "hot aches" developed. Even then I didn't complain. As soon as I'd warm up, I'd be right back outside in the snow going at it again. Speaking of snow, I remember one winter's snowfall being so severe I was able to step over the fence out back. I was only 6 or 7 at the time and the fence was about six feet tall. I walked over the top of it.
There's something about those leaves...
In choosing the composition of the painting, something hit me. I don't know if it was my subconscious at work or not but the orange tree on the right reminds me of one horrific night. There was a house across the street (on the right side). A large family used to live in it. They had three daughters and three sons, ranging in age from about 6 - 14. On one very snowy night I was awakened by sirens. We no longer lived here, but on the other end of town and on the main road. One fire truck passed and then another. Then still another would come. There were five or six trucks in all...all from neighboring towns. I knew something "big" was up, but I had no idea where the fire was. Then we got a call at about 2 AM. It was one of our old neighbors asking us if we could hear the screams. She thought we still lived on this road. The Turner house was on fire!
We got word the next day that four of the six children had died. These were friends of mine. They were too scared to jump out of the upstairs window, and one of the exits on the first floor had been blocked by an old refrigerator. One of the firemen had to be turned away as a couple of the children living in the building at the time were his own. (One of them died. The fireman didn't live there and was, in fact, among one of the "called in" crews from out of town.) In the painting now, I see those orange leaves as flames. The woman who called us lived in the house you see on the left.
I'm glad now that we weren't there to see it. I don't know how I would have handled it.
I can't always do it, but there are times when there are 'tears' in my paint...and I make no apologies for it. It's these times when some of the best paintings come.
Too much information?
I believe syrup is for pancakes. Having said that, it's often been said that we suppress our worst memories and keep our fondest. In the painting, though not seen, the Turner house is still standing. The neighborhood kids are in school. We're heading into winter, my favorite time of year. And the viewer is standing next to our front yard, where I used to play. So this scene is sort of a "best of" from that time.
For Cathy, Ellie, Eddie and Donny.