Sunday, December 30, 2007

How you doin' Mr, Whitney!...

With great pleasure I post this recent contribution from Michael Killela....

I thought I would share some of my personal interactions with Ed. Perhaps this might appear mundane but I believe my interactions with Ed revealed the true character of a great man and showed him always to be the teacher, even in the most unexpected places.

I have not lived in New York for more than 20 years. As a teenager, I lived in Jackson Heights not far away from Ed's home.

I met "Mr Whitney" as I called him in those days in the early 80's as he was a regular customer in the local pharmacy that I worked at as a teenager. What a vibrant dynamic gentleman he was. He would come in and I would greet him with my usual "How you doin' Mr, Whitney!" He would look up at me with those piercing eyes and say "terrible, absolutely terrible" to which I would counter "but you look great!" and he would always answer " aw you must be cockeyed!" I think he did it just because he knew I enjoyed it so much so he never changed it.

A year or so later (maybe two) Opie passed. She was in a nursing home I believe and during this time his health deteriorated. I began to deliver his medicine and other items to him during the next several years. When I would get there we would have our usual beginning exchange and then we would discuss art. Not painting per se, but art in general. I was a musician facing choices of style, and what I perceived to be ethical questions over pursuing money or keeping my art pure. Those treasured 20 to 30 minutes I had with him each week or so were the most influential I ever spent with anyone in my life. He told me several times that "there are only two things that matter in life- your friends and your art, everything else is worthless". He challenged me to make sure the decisions I made were ones I could live with.

I never lifted a brush and never showed an interest. We hardly looked at his work that was all over his house. It was the man, the teacher that I hold dear and consider one of the most important influences in the person I have become. He was remarkable. I surely can't speak to his art. But I can speak of his heart-. Pure and uncomplicated. He had the ability to lift your spirits and at the same time make you feel like you forgot your homework. Ever the teacher, he wanted to pass on the passion and conviction that guided him. In that, I can assure you he succeeded.

I am not cockeyed, as his accusations went, and it was Ed's presence, wit, and style that left the world a better place because he lived in it. I can still hear him screaming at me for refusing the tip money he wanted to give. He had already given me something priceless that will stay with me forever.

In Tribute,

Michael Killela


Joe Corrigan said...

I'm trying to get information on Robert E. Conlan. We have a watercolor that he did sometime in the late 50's or early 60's. We have recently found out that he wrote an introduction to "Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting" by Edgar A. Witney. Would you - or anyone viewing this site - have any information about Mr. Conlan? Or could someone point me in a direction that I might find it.


Joe Corrigan

Wes Waugh said...

Joe, I tried in vain to contact Mr. Conlan to get his contribution(s) to the site. I found an email address at one point but never got any responses from it. Ron Ranson is in Boone this week and I hope to connect with him to see if he has any leads re: Robert's status. thanks for posting and we appreciate any referrals of the site you wish to make. I would hang on to his painting for sure!

Joe Corrigan said...

Thanks, Wes. We have no plans for getting rid of the picture...we're just interested in finding out some information about Robert Conlan. The watercolor was given to my father-in-law as a present and he left it to us when he passed away. My wife seems to remember that her father mentioned that Conlan did some back covers for Reader's Digest. We contacted them and they took the time to do a search through their archives but couldn't find any record...although they said it was possible that they may have purchased some of his paintings but never used them. Hoepfully Ron Ransom may have some leads.

Thanks again,


Joe Corrigan said...

Thanks, Wes...

The watercolor was a gift to my father-in-law and it came to us when he passed away. My wife believed that her father told her that Conlan did some back covers for Reader's Digest. We contacted Reader's Digest and after they searched their archvies they said they couldn't find anything...but it was possible that they bought some of his paintings but never used them. Hopefull Ron Ranson might come up with something.

And we have no intentions of getting rid of the picture.


Wes Waugh said...

Joe, Frank Webb has provided me with Mr. Conlan's mailing address as currently listed with AWS. If you email me directly I will gladly provide you with it (

Whitney Demo on the Rocks, Kennebunkport 1979

Whitney Demo on the Rocks, Kennebunkport 1979
photo courtesy Shirley Langraf