Image courtesy of the artist.
Bob Graham was born in Canton, Texas in 1947. He studied art at North Texas State for four years. In 1970, Bob traveled north to Provincetown, MA. There he studied with the famous Impressionist painter Henry Hensche at the Cape School. Hensche was the student of Charles Webster Hawthorne himself the student of William Merritt Chase. Bob started teaching in 1974 and has lived and worked in New Orleans for more than 30 years.
“I visited New Orleans twice in the late seventies. I did not feel at first that I could bear to leave my portrait business in Atlanta. Things were going very well for me. But the pressures of parenthood were a lot for a single parent, and I came once more to the Big Easy.
This time I had my two boys Adam and Noel with me and I came to stay. I was given sole custody of my children after my divorce. Selling art in the French Quarter offered me a way to be a nurturing and hands on parent of two boys under five years old and be an artist too. I was and am very grateful for that.
I sketched portraits in one hour for tourists and locals and I painted the musicians who played music all around me. I sold literally hundreds of paintings while my kids grew to manhood. And I drew thousands of portraits.
Simultaneously with working as an artist in the French Quarter, I exhibited regularly in the art shows in New York and around the country and was published in several compendiums on pastel technique. I won best of show in many including three in New York City with pieces that were painted mainly on Jackson Square.
My livelihood was tied into being creative on a daily basis. The French Quarter gave me that opportunity and I think other people who want to be artists should have that opportunity also. Artists are at a disadvantage today. We must nurture the right brain non-linear activities in a world that insists we keep accurate records and keep our lives appropriately documented. It is similar to insisting that my tax lawyer paint every day in addition to the bookkeeping. The truth is that if you paint everyday you get a little bit scatterbrained about some other chores.
And Bless the City of New Orleans for providing this venue for artists. In the 1950’s artists were working in Pirates Alley next to the St. Louis Cathedral. They sold to the tourists from around the world and to locals. As artists accumulated, space got scarce and some eventually went to work on Jackson Square. The city issued licenses to the artists and limited the number to 200.
I was able to support my small family and see my youngest son, Noel, through Tulane University with a degree in Fine Art. My oldest son, Adam, went to study art in Provincetown Mass at the school where I studied painting. My teacher, Henry Hensche, had passed on, but Adam studied with the inheritor of the Cape School, Lois Griffel. He resides there today as a working artist in the Impressionist manner. Noel is in New Mexico after the Great Katrina Diaspora where he creates designs and cartoons.
We have lived as artists, our lives are our art. Our community is our art, and then after all, our world is our art. There has always been a sense of community that is truly unique to the French Quarter artists. I have never feared for my children because of the community we created here.
I still paint the musicians that created music and parade near me. I am currently painting my impressions of Mardi Gras and these images have evolved to what I now hope are my unique contributions to the heritage of New Orleans.
New Orleans faced the aftermath of Katrina and survived. It is better than ever, but still the city’s future depends on support from tourism. So get out here and have some fun! My work can be seen at the Dutch Alley Gallery in the Historic French Market not far from the Cafe du Monde.”