Army Dock

How easy is it to look and not see?

The story of this painting is rooted in my early years of growing up in Sedalia, Missouri. Part of my greatest memories as a child was spent visiting the Lake of the Ozarks, in south central Missouri. My family and I would travel there to fish, have get-togethers, play and water ski. What a lot of fun we had on each trip there. As the years moved on and life changed, I got married and had children. We moved around the country for a while with different job changes. We really did not get back to the lake for a long time. After the death of my father-in-law, my husband, Steve, inherited his dad’s lake house. Within a month after Steve’s father’s death, my maternal grandmother died in Sedalia. This time resonated with me to record the past and its wealth of information. I started keying in on vintage buildings and interiors.

Being at the lake, I became aware of the old docks and knew they would too, be gone soon. carrying on with a southern tradition of the ‘Sunday Afternoon Drive’ after church and lunch, we would take long boat trips as the sun was starting to go down. On the lake today, this is still a very common practice to do every evening in the summertime. We would see a new dock, a nice yard, a new boat, visit with neighbors, and anything else that caught our eye going slow forward. In the early days of the lake, the homes were camp cabins for fishing. Today, you will see homes fit to be sitting in Beverly Hills, California!

A short distance from us on Big Island is an area known as Little Island Camp. Here, I spotted this old, handmade dock on stilts during one of our early evening boat rides. The sunlight on the weathered wood and water reflections begged me to stop and look. We had been by it many, many times, but I never looked to see. I was now focused on things that were passing from existence. I asked Steve to go by the dock again so that I could take some photos. I checked to see if anyone was home. No. There were two chairs on either side of the dock. The sunny, right side chair was not positioned the way I wanted it. I asked Steve to pull up to that rickety dock and let me off to move things around and change the chair. When I put my hands on it, it didn’t move! I tugged and still no movement. I got down on my hands and knees to take a look at the chair legs. What a surprise! Each leg had an ‘L Bracket’ screwed in and attached to the dock! Those chairs were not going anywhere! After really looking at the dock and the U.S. Army 5189 sign, I realized it was probably the last dock remaining on the lake from the original issue of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dock permits, who were there when the Lake of the Ozarks with Bagnell Dam were first built between 1929 and 1931. It was so old that it was a wonder it had not collapsed!

After getting the drawing on the board, I could not understand the bracing for the roofing. Steve boated me back over to the dock so that I could redraw the beams. There wasn’t a square angle in the whole dock! I experimented to understand how to interpret the corrugated metal siding. We had to make several trips to the dock to check the angles and light. This old army dock really touched me – I loved it. ‘Are you kidding me, Shirley? A dock has feelings?’ No, but it had real character. So paint what you love and paint what you know. This gives a painting its own soul and life. Without the input of love and life, the painting will have no connection. It will be just another painting. The painting is on a full sheet of d’Arches cold pressed watercolor paper, with Winsor-Newton transparent watercolor pigments, and Winsor-Newton series 7 sable brushes.

The painting was exhibited in the 2017 Rhode Island Watercolor Society 22nd National Show, Rhode Island Watercolor Society Gallery, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, October 14-November 24, 2017. Juror, Stan Miller.

The second exhibition was the “2018 Art of the Heartland,” SouthWest Artists, Inc., Mena Art Gallery, Mena, Arkansas, September 26-October 27, 2018. Juror, Brad Cushman.

In October of 2019, “Army Dock” won First Place Gold Award from the Kentucky Watercolor Society.

This is a wonderful American painting.

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