Commitment - The Seasons of Eastern University

Shortly after the exhibition of cars and trucks, I had lunch with my friend and patron Rich Merriman. Rich is a talented investor and businessman, a lover of art and Paul McCartney,  creative, and sometimes insane!

Little to my knowledge, he had a meeting at Eastern that afternoon and as head of the marketing committee needed an idea for a fundraiser for the Friends of the Library, a volunteer organization who works with and for Eastern for the betterment for the library and the students, researchers, teachers and others in the community who use it and depend upon it for information.

Autumn at Eastern - acrylic on canvas - 30" x 40"
In the midst of our lunch, Rich suggested, or more appropriately, demanded, that I paint 50 paintings of Eastern University for a fundraiser the next year.

"That's impossible!" I said. "And who is going to buy the paintings?"

"Everyone," Rich answered. "They need paintings in the library and in the school, and you'll split the proceeds with library."

"I can't paint 50 paintings of the University in one year. There is not enough subject matter, and I don't see  how we could sell enough to make it worthwhile for the school or for me."

"Than how about 25," Rich blurted back. "You can do 25. Come on, you painted 35 cars and trucks."

"Yes, but they were all different. Eastern is...well it's Eastern...a small school with few scenes."

Early Spring - acrylic on canvas - 24" x 36"
Before we finished lunch I agreed to paint 12 paintings. It was late fall, so I agreed to complete the assignment by the same time next year.

"Paint more," Rich said.

"Twelve," I answered.

That next day was a beautiful, clear late October day with the leaves past full color. I raced from my office in the afternoon  to catch the light for my first painting. As I drove toward Eastern, the sun was already very low, but I was able to get some photos of the main building with sun hitting it and a few grey clouds drifting past. That painting was become first of a series of 16 paintings of "The Seasons of Eastern University."

My idea was to paint three paintings for each season and exhibit them in the library the following November. I had no idea how I would be paid for this venture, but I knew I had made a commitment to the school and to Rich to take on and complete this project.

Gulph Creek - acrylic on canvas - 24" x 36"
As with any series of paintings, there were my personal favorites, as I was creating them, and in retrospect. Early Spring is perhaps the painting I enjoy most. It contains both warm and cool light, and is layered, leading the eye from emerging crocuses at a pond to Walton Hall, the main building on campus.

Of course, nobody has the same favorite, and my wife is extremely fond of Gulph Creek, a winterscape of the creek that flows beneath a bridge and around the school. I experimented with using the color phthalo blue, which I named  Noelle Blue since my daughter had given me a tube at Christmas The color is iridescent and much more intense than cerulean blue, the color I normally use for skies and water.

Prior to the show. Rich Merriman had succeeded in selling most of the paintings to the Board of Trustees of Eastern. He then convinced the members to donate the paintings back to the school, as he had already done,  and plaques were attached to each painting signifying the donors. I contributed the two unsold works to the collection and today the paintings are on display in the library of Eastern. Nearly $40,000 was raised from the sale, and the area where the paintings are displayed is designated "The George H. Rothacker Gallery."

Amazingly enough, I made some money, the library made some money, the school and library
Log Cabin at Eastern (since since demolished) - acrylic on canvas - 24" x 36"
received paintings for its walls, the Library gained recognition for its efforts, its donation of a great portion of the money earned was made to the University, and Rich Merriman succeeded with a project I believed was destined for failure.

One of the things I have learned over the years from painting, as well as with other good will projects, is that one never knows what will happen from taking on a task. The act of using your skills for "profit" is different then using your talents for the benefit of others. The one near certain reward is that the person that "gives" honestly will gain, but not always in the way he or she desires. The Eastern project provided many rewards for me:
  1. I was given the chance to create a series of paintings of a place I would never have painted and succeed in producing a valued collection of art;
  2. Rich Merriman succeeded in instigating a project that he could be part of that would succeed in fulfilling his goals;
  3. The school benefited from money earned from the sale of the prints;
  4. The people who purchased the prints benefited from having a lssting remembrance of their purchase on the walls at Eastern;
  5. The Friends of the Library gained recognition from the school for their accomplishment;
  6. I made enough money to pay off some debts and had a gallery named after me at a University.
  7. I gained an opportunity to help pay back my friend and patron with my time and talents for the many doors he has opened for me. 
Click to Chapter 15: Going Home Again