Category Archives: Peeking Behind The Curtain

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Once Paul’s talents for creating pictures became well known, a large portion of his work was devoted to typing specific images at the request of the people around him.

In late 1989 and early 1990 Paul made a rendition of a painting from 1847 by John Vanderlyn known as Landing of Columbus, which was displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

This rendition was done at the request of John Cermak of Roseburg, Oregon where Paul lived in a nursing facility. Mr. Cermak was a strong advocate of Paul’s work.

The images below show the original painting by Vanderlyn followed by snap shots of Paul’s rendition. It would be interesting to know if the order in which Paul developed his picture is similar to how an artist using pencil or charcoal would sequence their work.

The title on the final frame was almost certainly added by Mr. Cermak.

Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn (1847) displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda

Paul was exceptionally disciplined about time spent on his craft. Throughout his active years typing pictures, he devoted three hours per day to whatever picture he was working on — he reserved the remainder of his day for other interests including listening to music, playing chess and cribbage, participating in activities at his nursing facility, or venturing into the nearby community as able. Progress on his pictures was perhaps slow compared to other artists though very steady.
A copy of Paul’s final rendition of the painting. This piece took Paul approximately 6 weeks.

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Videos Featuring PauL

In 2004, a crew from KING-TV, an NBC affiliate in Seattle, drove 350 miles to Roseburg, Oregon to film Paul. Paul was 83 years old at the time and, due primarily to cataracts, was winding down his artwork. The TV crew was led by John Stofflet, who by all accounts did an incredible job of working with Paul to put together this video. Mr. Stofflet now is with the NBC affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin and his work has earned him 25 Emmy Awards — two for this video.
This slideshow features close-up detail of many of Paul’s pictures mixed with information about Paul.
Paul can be seen typing a picture in this clip extracted from a 1988 television program by ABC called Incredible Sunday. The man describing Paul’s technique and character is his friend, John Cermak.
This clip, taken from near the end of ABC’s Incredible Sunday segment on Paul, sheds a little more insight into the patience, perseverance, and humility underlying his life and art.

Pictures Better Than Words

In the mid-1980s, Paul decided he needed a way to better organize and store his belongings in his room at Rose Haven Nursing Center . He envisioned a wood cabinet that would fit between his bed and window and allow his belongings, including supplies and tools (such as rulers) for his art, to be organized, accessible, and safe.

Paul tried to convey what he had in mind to a local carpenter. This turned out to be frustrating as Paul’s spasticity made his speech difficult to understand. Typing the words that others could not understand might have been an alternative way to convey his ideas. But Paul had never learned to read and write, so that was not an option.

Paul’s solution was to use his typewriter to sketch the cabinet he envisioned.

The carpenter took the sketch, and turned the idea into a fine, functional cabinet which Paul used daily for the rest of his life.

Paul meticulously conveyed his ideas for the shelves and drawers to ensure the cabinet would be accessible and functional as well as attractive.