News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett B-Sides

April 26, 2012

MARK BENNETT: When it came to artwork, ‘Salty’ always kept it real

TERRE HAUTE — The depth of my visual art expertise mirrors that of Neil Young.

“Art is just a dog on my porch,” the famed songwriter told a Rolling Stone interviewer in 1979. Young was sitting on his porch beside his dog, Art.

I enjoy and appreciate art in any form, but understand it best when it’s literal.

Salty Seamon kept it real. Our fuzzy memories of bygone high schools and Wabash Valley countrysides became forever clear when Salty re-created those images in watercolor and ink. Before he died in 1997 at age 86, he painted more than 5,000 pictures. They adorn the walls of living rooms, banks, dentist’s offices, lodges, principal’s offices, diners and galleries all over Indiana and the nation.

On Tuesday, organizers of the Local Legends Walk of Fame inducted Seamon and seven other notable figures into that elite Terre Haute honor group. When I heard Seamon was among the inductees, I dusted off an old cassette tape on a desk in my office. The recording from the mid-1990s featured one of my wife’s middle school students interviewing the venerable artist for a sixth-grade English assignment just a couple years before his death. He offered advice and insight on art, work and life.

As with his paintings, Seamon offered viewpoints most of us would recognize from our past — from a grandpa or a minister.

His common-sense wisdom showed in his response to a question about the length of time it took for him to paint a picture. Salty, whose given name was Denzil Omer Seamon, said it depended on the subject in the picture, and the detail necessary to depict it. A barn scene could be finished in five or six hours. People, horses, buggies, cars take longer. And, of course, with skill comes speed.

The key to creating art, Salty said, is “the same as Larry Bird with a basketball — practice. And after you’ve done something 50, 60 years, you ought to be pretty efficient at it.”

His explanation of his techniques was fascinating. If he decided to paint a barn, Seamon would go to the actual location, photograph the structure and sketch it “on the spot.” Then, he would draw it on tracing paper (to avoid having erasure marks and stray lines on the final product), and use ink to darken the lines. With the final surface placed over his sketch, he would use a metal stylus to trace the scene with indentations, before adding the ink and watercolor.

In the middle of that process, Seamon would look at his sketch turned in reverse. Why?

“A lot of your bad drawing shows up in reverse,” he told his young interviewer, “because you’re seeing it entirely different than it ought to look either way.”

Most of us could use that advice every day. We may not spot the flaws in our ideas until we look at them from a different viewpoint.

He also researched the subjects of his artwork. One of his handiest reference materials was a 1904 Sears & Roebuck catalog. Its pages displayed turn-of-the-century clothes, windmills, and equipment for buggies and teams of horses. A buggy hitch and a horse-team hitch were not the same, he pointed out. As he emphasized the importance of that information, Salty then uttered a line I understood well.

“When you’re drawing something, like writing or anything else, people’d rather find your mistakes than give you credit for what you got right,” he said. “So I like to feel like I got it right. But I make mistakes, too.”

His favorite subjects were those he knew quite well.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mark Bennett B-Sides
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Today in History for April 18th Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes
NDN Video
My name is Cocaine Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010