Many readers have commented on the cover image of our annual City Guide (August issue) so we're happy to introduce you to the artist, Dudley Condron, who calls himself "an Oklahoman by birth but, since 1947, a West Tennessean by choice."
Condron is a retired pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, but he's long had another passion besides preaching. "The passion to do art had to be born in me," says Condron. "Perhaps my grandmother played a part. She did beautiful pastel pictures. Or I may blame Fred Rawlinson for my sustained interest. Fred has been the premier watercolorist in Memphis for 50 years. I heard of him back in 1976, when he was teaching art courses at [what is now the Memphis College of Art]. I joined his class and am blessed to still have Fred as my mentor."
Now, at age 88, this minister-turned-artist also feels blessed to spend time in his studio every day, translating his impressions of Memphis into watercolor paintings. He has lived here for nearly half a century and says, "I don't believe there's a more 'paintible' city in the world. I recently did 35 paintings of Memphis for an exhibit at Circuit Playhouse. One of those is Rivertown." And that's the work that appears on the cover of our current City Guide — which is on newsstands now. Next on the artist's agenda will be the Nineteenth Century Club, which is imminently threatened by the wrecking ball. "That [destruction will be] a disaster of course," says Condron. "I very much want to paint it before it joins those other sites that are no more."
Reflecting on his interest in painting, Condron names other influences besides his grandmother and Fred Rawlinson, including the University of Memphis, where he enrolled in 1990 and "ground out" a degree in fine arts. "I was 70 when I received that degree and am grateful to the school for helping me better understand what it is that drives us painters to do this." His wife, Joyce, does her part too: "She seems to have this notion that painting is keeping me healthy and sees to it that I keep driving from our home in midtown to Fred's studio in Germantown." Finally, Condron credits the West Tennessee landscape and the Memphis scene as a whole.
But the power underlying all these influences burns within Condron himself — his passion for painting. "That seems to have helped the most," he says. "In spite of living this long, I don't have to hold on to it. The passion holds on to me."