American realist painter John Whalley has lived all over the East Coast, from New York to Rhode Island to Maine. During a five-year stint in a remote part of Pennsylvania, Whalley found inspiration not just from the landscape but from its inhabitants, too.
“In the 1980s, I was working at an orphanage in Pennsylvania. It was a children’s home for 50 kids and was located on a working farm. It was in a beautiful, very remote part of Pennsylvania up in the mountains. When I first walked on the land, I felt like I was home. I worked there for five years and set up an art therapy program where the kids would come in every day in groups of three or four, and we would work on individual projects.
The boys would go out to do their chores every day on the farm, and they were always leaving tools around. I walked into the woodshed one day, where they kept the tools, and found the kids had left an axe and a shovel leaning against the wall. I just loved the scene. I sat there and did some sketches of it, as well as the shed door and maple trees outside where the farmer was collecting maple sap for syrup-making. Some years later, I thought to revisit this scene as an egg tempera painting.
The boys were always leaving things here and there. Little did they know that, in doing so, they were leaving me with such inspiration as well. I’m actually still in touch with a few of these ‘kids’ now, some 30 years later.”
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