Every night there was just a bit different, but every night there was always spirit, enthusiasm, and energy for art.
The students who came to Aldergrove were outgoing people committed to art. Doris was one of them. Her husband had left her and she was a waitress at a local coffee shop. Not having any money, she still wanted to study with Bill. Margarete enrolled her even though she couldn’t pay. Margarete was good-hearted that way. She always told students, “Don’t worry about paying. Come to class. We want to have you. It doesn’t matter, one more or one less.” Doris joined the group, and started making progress. She hung her first painting in the coffee shop and sold it almost immediately for $125. The next day she came to class and wanted to pay Bill $120. Bill didn’t realize Margarete had not charged her. Neither of them, though, would accept the money. Bill figured she had sold her first painting and she deserved to keep the proceeds. That was her creative power at work!
There were always some younger people around, and Bill and Margarete always let one or two study for free. George Rammel was one of them.
One summer Bill and Margarete needed some help with the property and hired George. He was a tall, lanky kid with a keen eye for art and became one of their best students. All he could talk about was art. He began his art career creating abstract paintings and working with sculpture. He earned enough money to travel through England and Norway. He became influenced by the art traditions of those countries. He and Bill had many fervent discussions about modern versus traditional art. Because George was around so much he became part of the colony, arguing and creating sculpture. Like all great artists, George was a creative dreamer.
The evenings at Aldergrove were magic. The students worked hard all day, and in the evening, would gather around a fire or outside around the pond. Everyone liked most of all to sit around the pond, and talked about their almighty dreams. Bill was always encouraging the younger people to dream big. The other older students had plenty of dreams to share with the kids.
The summer winds were sweet and soft. A million stars twinkled overhead, and the moon was so bright it seemed they could reach out and touch it. The distant mountains beckoned. Gower Power would thunder on about his latest effort and repaint a seascape stroke by almighty stroke. Then George would begin to stir up the group with his views on art.
“If the ocean breaking on land has so much power,” he would say looking up at Gower Power,” why not just break down and abstract its rhythms? Find the form of the color, and get to the heart of it! The more foreshortening and real detail, the more you are only hiding the rhythms of art. Be honest and go for the purity of form. Representational art is a deception.”
“Because you have got to have something real to hang on to!” Gower Power would shout. “Reality is what you see, not what you imagine, and that is what art does. Show the real.”
Then George, the Englishman, would begin talking about his education in England – how formal education gives you ways to see the world and respond with your art. He went on about programs that studied classical art, and how that affected his experience of the world.
Then, everybody joined in the discussion. They would talk about rules of conduct for freedom, life, modern art, and the experience of Nature. Even Doris, would jump in with a few remarks about art and the goals artists should achieve. George would debate with everyone for hours.
After a while, Margarete would bring out her guitar, and Bill would get his fiddle. Sometimes he would get his musical saw. Bill and Margarete would play and sing folks songs from their childhood. Then George led them in American folks songs. They would even sing popular songs. Everybody joined in. It was the highlight of the evening, and some of the neighbors would come to the house in the evenings just for the singing.
Every night there was just a bit different, but every night there was always spirit, enthusiasm, and energy for art. After a while, their talk and music and dreams disappeared into the night air, and they grew silent. Then they would end their good time and break up in good fellowship and friendship. The next day, they were back at it again, painting and firing in, a dozen or so people creating together.
Bill felt a special affinity with George Rammel. Bill appreciated his artistic ability, particularly with stone and wood. George loved wood so much that he would not use a chainsaw. He always used axes. Bill was always buying axe handles for him because he kept breaking them. Bill never objected because George’s prowess with wood was remarkable and he did a lot of the chores around the property.
On one of his hikes, George noticed a big block of wood lying half in the sand and half under water in an old pond. It was good, strong cedar, that must have been lying in the pond for centuries. George fell in love with that chunk of wood. He decided that he had to carve it. Bill, George and some of the other students went to the pond and tried to pull it out of the water, but they couldn’t budge it. Obtaining a tow truck from the local gas station, they hacked a path through the woodland until they reached the pond. Then the job began in earnest. While the tow truck pulled, George was in the water, like a duck, push and shoving. Sweat poured down his face. Cursing like a sailor at the piece of wood one time, and talking to it like a friend the other, they began making progress. The stump moved, but-by-bit, and finally cleared the pond.
Once back at Aldergrove, George sat and looked at it for days. He was studying all the mysterious forms and shapes in the wood. From time to time George would disappear then reappear on the balcony. He would put his feet on the railing and would just stare out at the mountains and trees. Finally, one day, George announced, “That piece of wood is going to become a black bear.” Bit-by-bit, over the next few months, he chiseled and sculpted away until a mighty bear emerged out of that piece of old wood.
Bill appreciated the fact that while George was an eccentric kid, he was a remarkable artist.