Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jim Bean

An Artist's Cottage
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

Don't you just love surprises?

A few weekends back, the lilacs were in full bloom. I don't know about other places, but Maine grows lilacs like they were nursed on Rapid Gro. My favorites are the one's planted near old farmhouses. Grand porched-expanses, of addition upon addition with dormers tucked in everywhere, these white old-fashion beauties can be seen on any country drive. The lilacs hugging corners of these charming homes have grown enormous over time, oozing sweet perfume that lingers in the air.

Did people have uses for lilacs back then? It seems every old house had them. Now-a-days when people build a house they plant rhododendrons or azaleas. Back then it was, build a house plant lilacs, rhubarb and raspberries. Two can be eaten, but it still leaves me wondering why everyone had lilacs? Was it just because it was easy to get free from your neighbors?

Whatever the reason, it was height of blossom season, and Mike and I set out to capture them on a photo shoot. There is a wonderful 30 mile loop around a nearby lake with many of these old houses along the way. The sun was shining and stop and walk (the car, that is) became the rhythm of the day.

Somewhere in the middle of our loop a garage door opened as I walked by. Mike had stayed back in the car, because seriously how many pictures of lilacs did he really need? I on the other hand was out in search of good painting material and every lilac bush along the way got its chance to audition.

I was caught by surprise when I glimpsed the gentleman who opened the door. He was an old Mainer from the word go. Almost Santa Clause looking but with faded jean overalls rather than the typical bright red ones. My first thought was I wonder if I can quickly get an inconspicuous shot of his bearded face? The thought was fleeting however, for when I saw what was in his garage, I began to talk to him. He truly was a Santa Clause.

His garage was anything but a garage. It was like landing at the north pole. A wonderful saw-dust filled workshop that smelled of freshly cut pine, with a makeshift store-front of wood creations. I didn't hesitate to flag Mike over. This was a "must see".

Do you mind if I take pictures? Can I blog about you?

My fascination with every inch of his meandering workshop was instantly evident. How wonderful to find this wood artist tucked in the middle of nowhere! Maine perhaps has more artists per capita then any other state. Some are boisterous and flashy, trying to make their name known. Others are tucked in quietly hanging only a little shingle outside their door announcing their art. (I don't suppose I have to tell you which category I fall into...)

We stayed and talked for a long time. He was happy to have visitors including the opportunity to show his many creations.

There were wooden toy trucks and trains. There were bird feeders and birdhouses.

There were ornamental scroll-cut filigreed pieces. Some of which were used to create large clocks. There were wooden baskets and whirligigs, wooden boxes and plaques.

Even trucks in a box!

Some items were hand-carved. Some he sold to artists who paint designs and resell then at craft shows. He wondered if I was interested in this too?

If I blog about you, I need to know your name. My name is Jim.

I need your last name too. Bean. My name is Jim Bean.

Like the drink? Yes, just like the drink, but with an N.

Well I shouldn't have trouble remembering that!

I need to bring my Dad here. I'd love to talk to your Dad. I like talking to old folks.

So there it is. Jim Bean is a modern day Santa Clause who lives in the woods of Maine. He's a gentle man, an artist, a jolly soul who thrives on visitors stopping in. He treasures his simple way of life and like many artists, sells his creations for less than they are worth. He was a true find on an artist's photo shoot and I loved exploring his studio...


  1. Beautiful painting, Susan, and nice excursion. Thanks for sharing. susan

  2. noël est encore loin..mais il faut déjà travailler pour ..

  3. Such a great and interesting post Susan. To start with the beginning I can tell you , that in the plantworld there is a fashion, too - and once, like 40 years ago, Lilacs were a must in every garden, then Rhododendrons and Azaleas took over, but today Lilacs are very much back in force again.
    I enjoyed so much reading about Jim Bean, a rare person in a very boisterous world.
    And last but not least, your painting is absolutely breathtaking,such beauty and serenity.
    Wish you a great Sunday

  4. What an amazing find and a fabulous day this must have been, Susan!! I would have loved to visit with this gentleman myself. I am awed by those clocks and of course, I am wondering how much he sells those beauties for...? One of my best friends in my school days was a girl with the last name of Bean. Her older brother was named Jim and I thought he was so sophisticated and oh so cute. I know he doesn't live in Maine though and I suspect that this man is quite a bit older than Jim would be now, but still, the name of your post caught my eye.

    Your painting of the overgrown yard and so beautiful flowers is just amazing! I suspect that you and I could make a weekend of searching out such places and have a blast! Hope your husband had fun too.

  5. What an amazing character and so talented. Thank you for sharing the photographs, I wonder what he does with all these things he makes? Every year my garden has quite a few lilac bushes and they were very lovely this year. I must paint them one day but your rendition is truly beautiful.

  6. I really liked your post on Jim Bean. He is such a wonderful artist, and everything in his shop looks so wonderful. You were lucky to come across him. I really liked his filigree work and his clocks, oh, I liked everything. Thanks for sharing, and introducing us to this amazing personality.

  7. Très jolie publication Susan... et certainement un bon moment au pays du père noël...
    Un bien belle peinture pour illustrer ce bulletin.
    Gros bisous

  8. This does sound like a great find. Love your article. How blessed you are to meet a man such as Jim Bean.

  9. Your work is so beautiful. I felt as though I were transported into a misty morning garden. I love all of your shared photos, so refreshing for those of us stuck at home!!

  10. Thanks for this post. Soooo interesting.

  11. This is my actual grandfather. I'm his oldest granddaughter, and he's so close to my heart. Also, he's shown me most of his crafts and how to do them. I'm very amazed with how well this is put together! I'm glad you got to meet him! :)


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