THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE ENTIRE TRIP – MEETING UP WITH HARLEY BROWN
It was a beautiful Wednesday morning in Tucson.The sights and sounds of the convention gave way to the quiet of man in an Airstream Trailer getting ready with the nervousness and anticipation of a teenager before his first date.
The truth is – I was about to go to meet up with a man who decades ago gave me words of encouragement regarding a still wet painting I had brought into a gallery in South Calgary – rubbed his finger through the back edge of a house, and showed me in simple words and a small very precise blending stroke of his finger that being an artist was what I wanted to do.
His name is Harley Brown, who is an icon in the western art world. An incredibly talented portrait artist and a member of the The Tucson Seven which included Duane Bryers, Donald Crowley, Tom Hill, Kenneth Riley, Bob Kuhn, and Howard Terpning – many of them hanging on the walls of Settlers Gallery, a Tucson legend unto itself.
I hadn’t seen Harley in oh, 38 years and and as I waited in the gallery, that encounter so long ago was about to be brought full circle. I was nervous, I’ll admit it as I really didn’t know what to expect and I only had one hour before I would have to leave to catch my flight.
I waited anxiously pacing around the gallery looking at the magnificent works and then, through an opening in the back of the gallery he appeared.
“Grant” He walked toward me, hand up.
“Harley” We shook smiling and after the normal niceties, and how are you’s, began to get reacquainted.
I won’t go into detail about the next hour but suffice it say we talked nothing but art. The great works on the walls of the gallery, his history, and my reintroduction into painting after a 28 year hiatus. I chose photography, my second passion as I didn’t feel I could make a living as a painter.
During our conversation, Harley mentioned how he liked to write and that he had written four books and also how he was the author of a book about the art of Howard Terpnings. Before I left, he had given me his signed Confessions of a Starving Artist book which is Harleys “How I did it” as well as Terpnings book. It was very gracious and I didn’t know what to say. Thank you obviously among many other things.
Sadly, the hour had passed far to quickly I had to go. After getting a photo with Harley it was time to say goodbye. It started with a handshake and a deep heartfelt thank you. Harley bowed his head and I could feel myself getting emotional. I told him how much this meeting meant to me and I could feel the meeting I had with him so long ago connecting with the present – a full circle. I started to really get emotional (not full out blubbering but tearing up) and Harley noticed and gave me a hug and simply said to me “Friends” I couldn’t speak and the moment seemed to hold for a very long time although it was most likely only a few seconds. I gathered myself and thanked him again wishing I could stay then headed out to the car to begin my journey back to Calgary.
I often find that there are events in our lives that don’t fully reveal how influential and important they are to us at the time they occur – somewhere in a place deep within ourselves these events resonate in ways that we may not fully realize until what has stayed hidden reveals its nature and insights just when we need them most.
It’s important that we encourage these encounters. Get out and meet people, take chances and understand that no matter who you are or where you are in life, that simple innocent exchange in a dry creak bed in Arizona or in a gallery in Calgary or a Walmart Parking lot may plant a seed that someday you’ll look back on and realize what a wonderfully simple but powerful gift was given to you.
My visit with Harley so long ago like I said earlier, had a deeply profound effect on who I became as a creative, and my latest visit with Harley has had a profound effect on who I hope to become as an artist.
Thank you so much Mr. Brown!