Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE PADUCAH PORTFOLIO…8 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


There are times I feel like the proverbial dog being wagged by his tail.  This project seems to have acquired a life of its own, which includes constant growth.  Just when I think I have the concept defined and contained, I discover a place, a structure, or some other unique subject that I simply cannot ignore.

My file of photos is approaching astronomical proportions, and the pile of drawings and paintings is not far behind.  Selecting what to include, and then trying to organize them is giving me a headache.

But of course, I’m a tiger, and the work goes on without any whining or complaining.  (The previous comments do not constitute whining or complaining; they are simply statements of fact.)

I’ve been spending some time in Paducah’s “Southside” discovering a bounty of fascinating places.

My task, through my artwork, is to make these places fascinating to you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013



Three months into this project and I find myself faced with a new dilemma.  What is my priority, the art, or the subject (Paducah)?
The original concept was to create a book featuring art that was generated by my encounter with the city.  It would be a book to look at, rather than reading, and the primary focus would be the artwork.  But as the work progressed, and I visited more and more streets and neighborhoods in the city, the focus seems to have quietly shifted to “presenting” the city itself, albeit through the art.

It is a subtle, but significant change.  If the primary intent is to present my Paducah inspired art, then the subjects included are of secondary concern.  But if the goal is to present a picture of Paducah, then it is important that I accurately represent the city, and cover all significant areas.  

I have decided that it does not have to be an either-or situation and will work at being as inclusive as possible, keeping the focus on the art and accepting the limitations of trying to portray and all inclusive portrait of Paducah.  The bottom line is…I continue to paint and draw until …whatever.

Recent additions to the portfolio:

Jefferson St. Sampler

Kentucky Avenue shops

Lower Town Sampler

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Remnants of Paducah Past 

Anyone old enough to remember the mom and pop-shops and markets of the past will understand my attraction to these hollow remnants that remain scattered throughout the city.  You have to look carefully because sometimes they have been “made over” into something thought to be more suited for the “modern” age.

There was a time when people did not drive to supermarkets and malls miles away to do their shopping; every neighborhood had its own shops and markets to serve the needs of its residents.  Granted, nostalgia tends to make everything better than it actually was, but one thing cannot be argued…everyone knew your name, because they were your neighbors.

When I look at these abandoned buildings I see them as they might have been years ago, when they were a vital part of the neighborhood.  Imagining their stories and their history is as fascinating to me as their visual presence.  I try to evoke their past with my art.

11th st.

11th st. it might have been

Mr. In between
 This lonely building sits in nowhere land between Lower Town and Fountain avenue area.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


My God, there are more churches in Paducah than people!  OK, that is a slight exaggeration, but there really are a lot of churches here, and that is a problem for me, because I have to decide which ones to include in the Portfolio.

Initially it was pretty easy, the obvious churches were the old downtown giants on Broadway and Jefferson streets.  That covered the Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians, but what about the Lutherans and Baptists?  I don’t want to be seen as playing favorites here.  So I expanded my mental section – “Spiritual Architecture” – and included two more churches, which I thought would keep me in reasonably good standing in the community of the faithful.  

Bethel Baptist Church

Lutheran Church on KY Ave.

Until yesterday morning when I decided to re-visit the Southside with my camera.  How could I not include either of these churches?

Burk's Chapel  AME Church

Nehemiah's Christian Church

Maybe the churches need a portfolio of their own.

Note...the size of the steeples bears no relation to the intensity of the faithful. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


How large is Paducah?  It is large enough to have a “downtown”, a Lower Town”, a “mid-town”, a “South side”, a “West end”, and a “Fountain Avenue area”.  I’m surprised someone hasn’t identified an “out of town” area.  Maybe they have, and called it the “county”.

Exploring the city as I have been doing over the past few months has given me a greater appreciation of Paducah and its many neighborhoods.  Individually, and collectively, they convey a sense of intimacy that has deep roots in the city’s history.  This is evident by the grouping of houses and the shells of what were once thriving neighborhood stores and shops.

It has occurred to me that Paducah could appropriately be called the “city of homes”.  They are present everywhere, in well defined neighborhoods or scattered willy-nilly along the streets and highways.  Reflecting their owners, they may be large, elegant, and imposing, proudly showing “their stuff”.  Or their elegance is quiet and simple, with no need to stand out and demand attention.  Then there are the houses that find out of the way places to avoid curious eyes, they don’t need attention, and they don’t want attention.  Some of these houses are small, even humble, and hide as if embarrassed by their plight.  But occasionally they are anything but small and humble, like the house below.

This Victorian classic is well hidden, less than a block off of one of Paducah’s busy streets in the Mid-town area.  It took me over 10 years to notice it after driving by countless times.

Quick sketch - Lower Town home

 The challenge ?  What to include in the portfolio and what to leave out.

Monday, March 4, 2013


In 1975 Rollo May wrote a book titled The Courage To Create, in which he described creativity as a result of an encounter between the artist and the subject.  As I struggled with the tension between medicine and art, this simple message resonated with me, helping me to understand my fascination with the urban environment that was the primary subject of my early work.

Some 35 years later I am once again responding to such an encounter, and am pleased to report that the difference in time and place has not dampened my enthusiasm.  I have been painting Paducah architecture and street scenes since my arrival here almost 11 years ago, focusing almost entirely on the downtown environment; my intent now is to expand my encounter to the Paducah I have not seen before. 

I don’t know what I enjoy more, exploring the city with my camera, or executing the drawings and paintings of what I’ve seen.

Quilter's Alley

Katerjohn's Pharmacy

Slim's BBQ