George is one of the kindest men I have met, and in many ways his gentleness and careful choice of words, easy laughter and substantial vocabulary remind me of my own father who passed away in 2005. I would venture that If it weren't for his knack for story telling, and his myriad stories from his career, you'd probably never guess he spent a good portion of his life as a Special Agent for NCIS (NCISA Who's Who Story: scroll halfway down).
I delivered the painting to him and he smiled, thanked me, shook my hand and set it down on his coffee table. I had to admit to George that I could not imagine why he wanted another painting. Far from being self-effacing with that question, I was referencing George's enormous collection of paintings, the vast majority of which are his own. He long ago ran out of wall-space in his four bedroom home, and both sides of his garage are modified with shelves loaded with paintings, categorized and alphabetized. It's like a library or vinyl album collection, only the collection is all paintings on panels or canvas, sometimes still in frames, but mostly loose.
As we drank a glass of wine together, we talked about art, painting, his career, his fun memories of his duties an a special agent, the art of getting a confession (for much of his career he obtained more confessions from criminals than anyone else around using psychology, relationship-building and a polygraph machine -- much more often than not, the polygraph was unnecessary), and of course we talked about Pearl.
He's done between 200 and 300 paintings of his late wife Pearl among the hundreds if not thousands of paintings he's done. Pearl was the love of his life and he is never at a loss for words describing the beauty and gentleness of the woman who preserved his heart in a career that could have stripped him of it.
"I've never known a more selfless person in my whole life," he sighs.
Sadly, cancer took her life 7 years ago, and George was left with a home full of memories of her and their children together -- and his box of paints. He visits her grave site a couple of times a week, and talks to her, hoping she's around somewhere to hear.
I once heard that a "real" artist is one who will spend days, weeks or months on a creative pursuit and never care if anyone ever sees the work. This is largely true of George. The vast majority of his oil paintings are in deep stacks along the walls in his studio, the garage, on the piano, and so on. He mostly does portraits and figures, and if it were not for a visit to his home, or catching his fancy as a friend to whom he'd like to give an original portrait, you'd never know otherwise that he paints. He's doesn't try to sell them, but for some commissions he talks about. Many people who have been blessed to know him have received a portrait from him as a gift.
Painting is what he loves to do to pass the slow-moving time and remember his friends, and especially his favorite model of all time, Pearl.