Here is a very early pet portrait. I had not seriously attempted to make any paintings with animals as the main subject before this. This is Christie. I met her in a bar in Homer, Alaska. Although it’s not a bar she insists, it’s a landmark of the end of highway 1, the Salty Dawg Saloon. The Salty Dawg is an old cabin built in 1897, there’s a tradition of signing dollar bills and hanging them from the ceiling. The bartender jokes that it’s their rainy day fund. Chrisite was fulfilling a long time dream to see the other end of Hwy 1, she had already visited the other end in Florida. I was at the end of my second fishing season drinking an MGD, my dad’s beer. I have one when I miss him enough. Christie was sitting beside me at the bar, it was 2002, and we got to talking. She ended up introducing me to her daughter by switching bar stools. They were vacationing and exploring Alaska together. Carrie and I were the same age and clicked immediately. Within half an hour of meeting, Carrie out of the blue asked me, “Have you ever heard of the Appalachian Trail?” Now, being from Minnesota I had heard of the AT one time. In a book over a year ago. That was the first time I had ever heard of the trail and it was the last time I heard anything of it until Carrie brought it up. I thought the AT was from another time and I assumed it had long been forgotten and overgrown but I had read Peace Pilgrim and wanted to hike it because of that amazing book. The only thing about walking along in the woods by myself, it sounded really unmotivating and depressing. I decided I would only want to hike the trail with someone and since none of my friends would ever go on any kind of hike like that I had reluctantly crossed it off my list of things to do. “Would you like to hike it with me?” Was Carrie’s next question. I was elated and skeptical. “We just met, why would you want to have me as a hiking partner?” But Carrie assuaged my fears, it was true how well we seemed to mesh and we got to planning. “I can’t go next summer, I have to go to Australia,” I said. “I can’t go next summer, I have to graduate college,” said Carrie.
“What about 2004?”
“I don’t have any plans.”
“Sounds good to me.”
And we made a plan. Two years later I had been to Australia, I had been to Asia, and I was arriving back in America in Washington, DC to head down to Fairview, North Carolina where Carrie was raised. Fairview is about 40 minutes Southeast of Asheville. She drove me around and showed me Asheville and insisted that I needed to live in Asheville. Carrie and her mom helped me out so much. I arrived back in the states with $50 to get my food and gear together and go hiking for two months before I would fly out to work another salmon fishing season in Alaska. Carrie had extra boots, an extra sleeping bag, her mom bought me a water filter. Their generosity and hospitality was unforgettable. I sat down one afternoon and painted this picture of Christie and her lovely donkey, Lilly, Lilly Long Ears is her full name. It wasn’t a very serious endeavor, it was just a cute photo of the two of them that went together easily. The result is so sweet and I’m still so proud of it. I have 8×10 prints of Christie and Lilly for $12 at my Etsy store or contact Zapow. Christie, of course, has the original. I painted a portrait of Carrie’s dog as well as her horse. I’m not sure if I have photos of that. I am so grateful to Carrie and her mom. They helped me have an adventure that I could have never done on my own and they treated me like family when I came to stay with them. I had been away from home for 4 months when I began the trail and it would be another 9 months before I saw my family again.
One day I would also like to offer prints of Carrie’s Australian Shepherd. Would anyone be interesting in pre-ordering a print to help cover printing costs?
Christie helped me out with some of the details of this blog here is something she added about donkeys: