Painters and writers sometimes share the same problem: that blank piece of paper, that blank canvas in front of them. What to do next? As a painter, I usually start drawing something, most anything. So, as I was doodling recently, I picked up an old magazine, a thin one. It was from the local history museum in a small Texas town where my Dad owned and edited a weekly newspaper. “The Famous and the Infamous of Eastland”, the title read., next to an old photo of a local lawman killed in a jailbreak in 1927. The man who broke out of jail, killing his jailer to escape, was Marshall Ratliff, the famous “Santa Claus Bank Robber.”
A few weeks earlier, dressed as Santa, Ratliff had ha ha-ed and ho-hoed his way into the bank in the nearby town of Cisco, pulled out his pistol, and walked out with several thousand dollars and more of securities. He and his three henchmen escaped in a hail of bullets, and after a Bonnie and Clyde-type chase over three counties, with stolen cars, child hostages, and more gunfights, he was captured and jailed in Eastland. The event made national news. (If a movie wasn´t made about it, someone missed their chance.)
I put the magazine down and continued drawing and doodling, but the Santa Claus saga kept recurring to me, so I drew the deceased lawman´s face on the canvas at hand. His name was “Uncle” Tom Jones, Lawman, Family Man and Friend to Many, his photo caption said. (After Ratliff was captured, he feigned insanity in his jail cell, and had to be fed and cared for, until his jailers carelessly one day left his cell door open. He found a pistol in the jailer´s desk, mortally shot one jailer, but was subdued by the second before he could escape. When it became known that the first jailer had died, a night crowd of several hundred citizens hauled him out of his cell---he was naked---and strung him up from a telephone pole near the Courthouse. As he was being hoisted up, the rope broke. Another rope was found, and he was properly hoisted back up. But, no! said someone. He has no clothes on! Ratliff was lowered a second time, pants were pulled onto him, and he was left to be seen the next morning, decently clothed, by decent citizenry.
I´m adding more details to the picture now.
People often ask where I get my ideas for paintings. Well, now you know.
Henry Vermillion in his studio.
“UNCLE TOM JONES, LAWMAN, FAMILY MAN AND FRIEND TO MANY” Work in progress. Oil on canvas by Henry Vermillion / 23 x 20 inches
VIEW MORE WORK FROM THE GALERIA IZAMAL ARTISTS
"ALDAMA, OTRA VEZ" Watercolor on paper by Henry Vermillion /
10 x 15 inches
“TATER TOT, GREAT DANE PUPPY” Pet portrait commission in ink on paper by Britt Zaist / 8.5 x 11 inches
“MOTHER & CALF” Original drawing by John Fulton /
Sepia and blue ink on paper / 7.5 x 11 inches
“INCEPTION SERIES” #4 of 6, Oil paintings on canvas
by Elvia Samaniego / 24 x 24 inches
“BUILDING A NEW SKY” Oil on canvas by Ray Leguizamo /