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Friday Conversation With Arthur Blanchard: A Lifetime of Drawing

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Arthur Blanchard in his studio. Photo: Jerome Weeks

Arthur Blanchard has been putting pencil or paint to paper for almost as long as he can remember.  And now, at 87, he’s holding his first gallery show in Dallas, at Beaux Arts  in the Design District.

Blanchard-Bus-People_driverBlanchard has created thousands of sketches and paintings, most of them portraits. One series spans about four decades. It’s called “Bus People,” and it began with sketches Blanchard made almost daily on the DART commute to the law office he helped found, Payne and Blanchard. He continued the series – and his bus riding – after he retired in 1984 to pursue his art.  Only a handful of Bus People are represented in the show. A press release says there are about 300.  Blanchard says there could be more than a thousand.

For The Friday Conversation on KERA FM, I visited Blanchard in his studio across from Fair Park.

Listen to the piece that aired on KERA FM.

Here are some excerpts from our chat:

The longest he’s gone without drawing?

“I have no idea, but it’s not very long. A few days, possibly. Even when I was in the hospital, I drew pictures for the nurses’ kiddies. Back when I was practicing law, I often drew in business meetings.”

Did business colleagues get those sketches?

“Sometimes, but that’s a pretty tricky business giving people your drawings of them. Particularly if you have a bent toward humor or exaggeration.”

Blanchard-Bus-People red cap_0005How he decided who to sketch:

“Availability. Accessibility. You can’t pick and choose because people are getting on and off. You start things and somebody leaves you in the lurch. I try to sit a couple seats back from them becasue I don’t want to draw attention to myself. Because people freeze if they realize what you’re doing. I don’t think I was ever caught except on one occasion.”

It’s always been more about making the work. Showing it  wasn’t important: “Really no. I’ve got the stuff everywhere. And I’m so old, that I don’t want to fool with it really. My idea is you’ll die pretty soon and your kids can take it. They can clean up the mess.”

How the work has changed over the years:  “It’s a little looser, I’m easier with it. Less intent on full-fledged realism. The purpose is really to get people to read what you want them to see there. If you can get the impression with less effort, that’s more artistic than it is if you sweat and strain to get each detail right. It’s a marvelous business.”

Blanchard and I spoke for more than an hour, so not everything made it onto the radio this morning, including his concession that the recent attention isn’t all bad:

“I’m kind of flattered by all this. I’m not immune to the publicity side of this thing. It’s kind of nice. But as for making much out of it I don’t expect….We’re having a nice little flurry, we’ll see what follows.”

He also told me the sad story of a haunting series of portraits in the show at Beaux Arts, all titled “Victim.” (The blonde woman in the collection below) Listen to the story:

 

blanchard vicitm Beaux-Arts-Party-Invite-Blanchard