Words That Paint Images: In Praise of Ivan Doig

urban landscape by Jeff Yeomans

afternoon bus 24x30 original oil

I love to read, especially when I find a book I can’t put down. Because when I do, I don’t paint, get other work done, or pay attention to the world. If I could make a living by reading, I might not have made art my career. But when I discover someone who’s writing puts compelling images and unforgettable characters in my mind, I can’t get enough.

So before a recent vacation, I bought a book to take in case of down time at the airport. The title is what caught my eye, “Last Bus to Wisdom” by Ivan Doig. It started out a little slow, but as I continued reading Mr. Doig “sank the hook.”

During a summer in the mid-1900s, a young boy in the midwest being raised by his grandmother gets shuffled off to another relative due to his grandmother’s illness. Traveling by bus, he encounters a series of characters that travel a distance and then depart, all providing the story’s wonderful series of funny, sad, riveting and ultimately life-changing experiences for himself and the wonderfully described people who pass into and out of his life. As in any good story, you become invested in him (and his well-being) and the inventive narrative of what becomes a twisted series of events is  believable and connected to this era following the great depression. I really didn’t want the book to end, I enjoyed it in so many ways.

I hope that in my lifetime, I can paint as beautifully as Ivan Doig writes.

After “Last Bus” I researched his work and found that there are about a dozen books that tell a wonderful series of connected stories about the mid-west and the immigrant families that settled there. I think that since Oct 2016 I’ve read about half of them. Surprising to me is that a Southern California surfer/artist, (me) has found that stories based in the mid-west more than 100 years ago  so compelling. Doig is a masterful, gifted storyteller. Sadly he passed away several years ago, but not before being recognized as an important American writer. His work is contemporary in a way that is timeless, about shared experiences, hardships, love and persistence. To me that describes what life (and even a good painting is about). Words, music, art and personal expression are integral to a life lived to it’s fullest. I wish I could personally thank Mr. Doig for his writing, but hopefully, sharing his work with you, my audience of friends and artists, will help grow his legacy and provide you the hours of enjoyment I’ve been fortunate to discover in his work.

I suggest you get on “The Last Bus to Wisdom.”

Laugh, learn, live....

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