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The PBS Painter's Tale

Copyright 2011, Paul Hawkins, Smashwords Edition

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I won't tell my secrets. No landscape painter who's ever had a show on PBS ever tells all his secrets – how you can paint a tree in a minute, a whole forest in ten, how you can make a river or a lake sparkle like glass and still look real – these are secrets no painter will ever betray outside of his mail-order set of video instruction tutorials ($19.95 per episode). He'll take them to his grave, leaving them to be rediscovered by future generations of starving, idealistic souls – so don't wait, buy that landscape today.

I had a landscape painting show on the local PBS affiliate at one time, but now that all seems a world and a lifetime away – before the big boys from Boston muscled in and told my channel to buy their bundled "Art with Eleanor" program if they ever wanted to hear from their precious "Nova" and "Frontline" again. So these days, I paint in malls – set up an easel, practice my craft like I'm oblivious to passers by, and bring an empty canvas to blue and green and moonlit sparkling life as crowds of traumatized shoppers shuffle by.

I've painted in and outside every kind of mall imaginable, from the colossal arctic-cool mega-malls of suburban Atlanta and Dallas and Minneapolis to hot street-front shopping centers in Laramie, and Farmington and Medford and Shamrock, where I've pitched a canvas tent in the parking lot in springtime. And in every one of those places I've seen the panoply of human life pass by. I've seen couples hand in hand choosing wedding rings in jewelry store windows and I've seen those same personae later, in the same location, walking pensive and alone. I've seen the movie lines in early fall, boys watching girls watching boys, wearing bright new sweaters on the first chilly day of the season, streets getting dark early and air crackling with crisp energy. I've seen robberies too, and senseless escalator accidents, and even the wounding of noble mall security guards for the price of a jacket or a fancy new cell phone. I've seen people entering shops seeking bargains and I want to say "hey that's no bargain — you can get a better one for half the price across the mall!" But that's not my job. That's not the job of any mall painter who wants to be invited back next season.

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