Bill and Margarete had been driving for hours. Their destination was Banff, Alberta. The Volkswagen’s tank of gas was nearing empty again. They came to the entrance of Kootenay National Park. This was the last obstacle between Bill and Margarete and their home. Bill had $1.50 in his pocket, just enough for some coffee and sandwiches.
The Ranger and the Cleaning Lady
The sign at the entrance of the park read “Park Visitors. Fee $2.50.”
The ranger came up to Bill and tipped his hat. Bill said, “Look, I’m really sorry, but I don’t have enough money for the fee. What can we do?”
The ranger responded, “It’ll cost you two-fifty.”
Bill pleaded with him, but the ranger just wouldn’t budge without the fee. Then, he went into his office and got a map. He showed Bill a way around the park. The route was twice as long and Bill didn’t have enough gas. He was getting angry.
Bill said, “I don’t have any gas. I don’t have any money. What if I send you the money. I’ll send you double the money.” Bill even offered his wristwatch as collateral.
Nothing Bill said would move the ranger – rules, after all, are rules.
Exasperated, Bill told the ranger if he wouldn’t let them through, Bill was just going to remain at the entrance of the park.
Just then an older woman came out of the ranger station. She was the cleaning lady, and she had overheard the argument. She came right up to Bill and gave him $2.50.
Embarassed, Bill got her address and told her he would send her $5.00. She wouldn’t hear of it.
“Can’t I help somebody in trouble?” she asked. Bill figured that two dollars and fifty cents was most likely as much as she made for a couple of hours of work.
When Bill returned home, he sent her five dollars. She returned two dollars and fifty cents to him. In exchange, for Christmas, Bill created a happy little painting and sent it to her in a nice frame. She was so nice, she wrote him a thank you letter in return.
People were always extending their hands to Bill and Margaret, and Bill always had the chance to share a painting with them. Painting kept them going during their travels in the United States and Canada.
Despondent, Bill felt like he was at the end of his rope. The clutch in his Volkswagen had broken again. Stranded in Sault Ste. Marie on the Great Lakes, it was Friday and the sign on the garage read “Closed for the Weekend”. The mechanic, though, told Bill he could park his Volkswagen on the lot and remain there over the weekend. He pushed Bill’s bus to a spot in the big junkyard where many of the broken-down cars parked. He moved Bill and Margaret into a cozy corner of the yard, and they prepared to bunk down for the weekend. Bill took out his easel and set it up among all the junked cars. He began to paint so he could earn some money to pay for the repair.
Later that night, the owner of the junkyard arrived and noticed Bill and Margaret camping there.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” he yelled at them.
Bill tried to explain that they had to wait two or three days to get their car fixed. The owner just kept shaking his head. He seemed like he was trying to figure out whether Bill and Margaret were a couple of crazy people or whether he should call the police.
Then he noticed the painting Bill was doing. It was a forest scene with birch trees.
“You’re a pretty good artist,” he said, calming down a bit.
“Well, some people think I make pretty good paintings,” Bill said with a smile.
“Tell you what,” he said. “You’ve got some time. If you think you could do a painting for me, I’ll give you a car and the keys to my summer cottage. There’s a grove of birch trees up there, with a view of the lake. If you can paint that for me, you can stay up in the lodge until we get to your bus on Monday.”
Two days for one painting! That was a vacation for Bill. The owner’s cottage was beautiful with a delightful view of the lake. The cottage had a wonderful stove, a comfortable bed, and plenty of food. Bill set up his easel, painted a few strokes, picked up his fishing rod and headed for the lake.
The next day, Mr. Johnson, the owner of the garage, came out to the cottage. He took a look at the painting, and said, ”Well, it looks like it’s coming along.”
“Just four or five more hours,” Bill replied.
Bill, though, began feeling guilty, so he created another painting for him. When Bill and Margaret saw the owner on Monday, Bill had two groves of birches for him to hang in his house. The owner was so pleased, he did not charge Bill for the repair.
Traveling across the country was both an adventure and a joy for Bill and Margarete, but the real joy was the people.
Next Week: Creating an Art Colony
Bill Alexander was more than a painter. He was more than an artist.
When you watch Bill’s videos you will not only see someone who paints beautiful images; but, if you listen to what he says while he is painting, you will learn what makes Bill’s contribution to art so very important.
As a kid I loved watching cartoons. In fact, I still do. I grew up with the cartoons of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Woody Woodpecker. But my favorite cartoon character was Popeye the Sailor. I loved Popeye because of what he said “between the lines”. Some folks might call it “muttering”; but Popeye’s “mutterings” contained true pearls of wisdom and were an expression of his views of life. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t hear them and they would be lost forever.
When I watch Bill paint it’s as much for his philosophy and words of wisdom as it is to learn how he creates his images. This is what makes Bill’s work so very important for all of us who care about him and are interested in furthering his work.
Bill’s greatest contribution to art was not his paintings, although they are wonderful images conjured up in the mind of a truly imaginative genius.
Bill’s greatest contribution was not his television shows although they were important in getting him known and exposing his work to a broader audience than the hundreds of folks who would flock to the shopping malls to watch him paint early in his career.
Bill’s greatest contribution was not even the model he gave us of his own life and career as interesting and astounding as that was.
Bill’s greatest gift to all of us was to show us that we could create art; that we could become the artist. That we had, within us, an ability to express ourselves in a creative and imaginative way that would empower us to become greater than we dare believed we were.
I have watched many, many artists on YouTube. What I find interesting about most of them is that they really show you little more than how well they paint. I wonder how many folks, after watching some of these painting demonstrations actually pick up a paint brush and start their own art journey. I’m sure there are a few; but it was Bill’s dream that every single person he met would pick up that brush and begin to paint.
In the most recent video we posted on YouTube with the late artist Diane Andre, Bill states, very clearly, his concern about being “only one Bill Alexander”. It was during this period he began to build a training program which would include a cadre of artists who would sweep across America and the world training more and more people to paint.
I truly believe, in Bill’s heart, he felt that painting and art would free people from the chains of fear, inadequacy, and self doubt that he, himself, experienced in his life. Painting would help them become confident, creative individuals who would not only create art for themselves, but would become so excited about their new skills that they would want to continue their journey by teaching others what they learned and experienced.
We know that in order to become better at anything, you need to teach. Only by teaching will the lessons learned become an integral part of your very being. Only by teaching will you reach your fullest potential. Only by teaching can you truly empower another human being to become all they can be.
I have no doubt that if Bill could have taught every single human being on the planet, one on one, to paint, he would have done it. But he couldn’t. However, in the video he also introduced us to the beginnings of the Alexander Certification program.
Near the end of his career, Bill extracted a promise from Laurie to continue his work after he was gone. This is a promise we take very seriously at Alexander Art. It is our driving mission and in the coming months you will see how very serious we are about this!
Bill’s entire life was about giving to others. You can see that in every video he made. The words of encouragement to his viewers to “fire in” with that paint brush, the lightheartedness while he worked to show how enjoyable painting was, and the glee he exuded as he poked fun at the blank canvas were as important as the paintings themselves.
Join us in our campaign to empower old and new students alike with the Bill Alexander method of painting. Help us wake up the creativity that lives in all of us. And help us spread Bill’s mission to everyone on the planet.
You Can Paint, We Promise!
Learn to Paint
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