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Friday, August 18, 2006


By Daniel Brooking

Daniel Henry Brooking was my father and my first art instructor. He didn’t fit the romantic image of an artist; he wasn’t a bohemian nor did he go around with pretentious airs. He drank hard and never turned away from a fight. He was bigger than life with a loud laugh, louder shirts and a pocket full of jokes; most of them bawdy. He prized books and didn’t understand why so many people refused to read. He had traveled throughout Asia during the second world war and often told stories of the people he met and the art he saw. He was friendly but could tease you mercilessly and if you couldn’t take a joke, well then “screw you“. He was all this and yet he loved art and showed me how to see beauty, but not in an academic way. As a child, I was surrounded with oil paint, canvases, charcoal, pastels and books, books, books. He sized his own canvases and used special formulas to prepare them for painting. From him, I learned an early appreciation of the native arts of Africa and Asia. He had visited the National Museum so often to study the paintings that when the Mona Lisa was shown there, he was permitted to go inside the ropes and make a copy.
On the outside he was just some roughneck with a bourbon bottle, a “good old boy”, who was down for a good time. No one though him soft because he was an “artist”. He was often plain spoken and could be crude, yet he wrote the most beautiful love poetry to my mother. To him beauty was obvious; no degree was needed. It was just there if you had the eyes to see. All you had to do was “pull your head out of your…”. No one expected his complexity and few knew his drives.
He died over thirty years ago. I wish my children could have known him better. He was rough but he would have had such pride in them. And they would have loved his rough charm, quick wit and fierce devotion. He and I were often at odds with each other but I knew I could count on my Daddy, and he would move heaven and hell to protect me.
I suppose sons try to compete with their fathers. It was a source of great pride whenever he would look at my art work and ask “How did you do that?”, then ask me to teach him the technique. His innovative spirit is alive in me and I have passed it on to my children. The art world has exploded into so many facets with new techniques just over the horizon with every new electronic marvel. Grow, try them all, mix and match, the old with the new, to create your own form! Daniel Henry Brooking would be right out there with you.
Daniel T. Brooking (July 2006)

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At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great piece, Harlee. Seldom hear about fathers.

John E Cooper


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