I contemplated calling the owners and asking if I could buy it from them. I googled the artist, Richard Strickland, and didn't come up with much I could go on. In a last ditch effort, I took the painting off the wall to see if there was anything on the back, and lo and behold, adhered with tape were a typed blurb about the artist and one of his business cards. I emailed him and heard back that same day! He replied that he was flattered I'd contacted him and that he mainly sells his work at art shows. He and his wife live close to the house we were renting, and he offered-up me coming over to his house/studio to see his work, some of it for sale. His wife and I texted back and forth, and I opted to drive over there on the morning of our last day in Florida.
They live nestled in the pines in a secluded area near Lake Ellen in Medart. In fact, Connie, Rick's wife, met me at the library on the main highway leading to their home, explaining that the drive to their place was a bit of a windy trek. Given that we were strangers, she punctuated the conversation by saying that even though they live off the beaten path, there ARE people around. We laughed about this later. I had given her my blog address earlier to check me out; I could have been a serial killer for all they knew! (Obviously we were both excited about the idea of getting together but all too aware of the fact that strangers meeting could lead to an episode on TV's 60 Minutes.)
When we drove up, Rick came out on the front porch to greet me, beaming. He and Connie gave me a tour of their home, including his sunny studio on the second floor. He told me his story. Here is an excerpt from his public Facebook page —
Artist Rick Strickland began collecting paintings by The Florida Highwaymen several years ago.
He loved the way The Highwaymen captured the look and feel of old Florida.
Rick was inspired by their story and began to paint.
Soon painting became a very important part of his life.
He learned style and techniques by studying the art that he loved,
and soon developed them into a style of his own.
The aim of his art is to capture and evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the "Old Florida."
Rick collects Florida Highwaymen paintings. Their home is colorful and happy, with stunning artwork in every room (I wish I had taken pictures). He shared some of his own work from what he calls his "blue period." While I loved that work (and you'll see in posts coming up that it was uncanny that the whole vacation was all about "blue"), it was the one below (now hanging in my living room), that I instantly felt a connection with similar to how I felt about the one hanging in Tucked Away.
I had such a wonderful visit, not just because his artwork is spectacular, but in large part because Rick and Connie are two of the nicest people I've ever met. Hugs were shared, a Rick Strickland original was carefully packed in my trunk for the long ride home, dear Connie convoyed me back to the main highway, and a vacation memory was catalogued for future reminiscing and sharing. I love that my painting has such a story behind it. These are my favorite possessions in life.
I've texted Connie since my return home, and here's a new twist to what is already a pretty doggone epic story. I signed the guest book at Tucked Away and included this story for future guests. The narrative didn't include my visit and purchase, since I penned it before going to see Rick and Connie. The people who rented the house after us read my entry and contacted Rick and purchased two of his paintings!!
Thank you, Rick and Connie, for your hospitality, and not getting creeped out by a stranger calling and accepting an invitation to your home. And Rick, the Florida beach scene you lovingly and beautifully painted in that sunny studio of yours is now sunshine in my home. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for a reminder every day of the most relaxing week of my life and connecting to you, my own Florida Highwayman.