Monday, November 30, 2020

Spending An Afternoon With An American Painter

One spring weekend in 1983, I drove up the California coast to the turnoff for the Santa Ynez Mountains. After a gorgeous drive through the mountains, I arrived in the Santa Ynez Valley and the small town of Solvang. 

Solvang was founded by three Danish immigrants in 1911, with plans to create a community for other Danish immigrants. By the 1980s, it was visited by large throngs of tourists so I would go there off-season. 

On this May weekend, as I was exploring the town probably intent on buying Danish cheese and Swedish herring, I came upon an art gallery. 

I stepped inside and was greeted by an older man who introduced himself as John St. John, a painter and the gallery owner.

I walked around and enjoyed the paintings and sculptures that were on display.

As I was about to leave, Mr. St. John offered me a cup of coffee and a chair. I accepted and thus began a lovely afternoon that I have never forgotten.

We must have talked about a wide variety of subjects and I know we really enjoyed each other's company. I don't remember any details of our conversation, only that I spent the entire afternoon with him.

Before I left, I knew I had to buy something to remember this afternoon by. I chose a small painting of a gray and lavender mountain shrouded in a dark mist. I remember it cost $80.00, about all I could afford at the time. 

I have it to this day, here in my bedroom, not too far from my purple cottage painting. 

As I was leaving, Mr. St. John took out a book, called Visions of Reality in oil paintings, a book about his life and his art. He wrote something in it and told me he wanted me to have it. To remember the day by.

There was something attractive about this older man, except I felt he was perhaps not entirely well. Checking now, he was  actually in his early 70's, but back then I had of course a different perspective on being 70 than I do now. And, as I found out, he died in 1986, so three years later.

How strange, I thought when I got back to my motel room,  opened the book and saw this photo of him as a much younger man. 


As it were, I had an interesting and pretty unforgettable experience meeting this man and sharing an afternoon with him. 


President Reagan's ranch was located in the Santa Ynez mountains.

And Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is situated in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

This may not be of interest anymore. At the time is was, since Reagan was president and Michael was very much alive and frequently stayed at his Neverland Ranch. 


  1. I bet you that the painting is worth much more than $80. dollars today. What an interesting post today. It was lucky for you that you had this encounter with Mr St John. He must have been impressed by you too.
    Stay safe and well.
    Hugs, Julia

  2. I'm so glad you posted this this is really an amazing story and I would have loved to have sat and talked with him. What a great story and what a great memory and you have the book and the painting to remind you. Thank you for sharing this

  3. Great memories of a great afternoon! Any possession we have that brings back such fond memories is a treasure!

  4. It sounds as if you gave him an afternoon to remember.

  5. A visit like no other, for both of you, and to have a signed book and a painting is so special.

  6. What a lovely story of a chance encounter that turned into more and a delightful memory. He certainly was a handsome younger man and I really like his signature.

  7. What a wonderful story! This gracious artist was one in a million. I am glad you have written this tribute to him, it is a lesson for all of us!

  8. That really is an amazing story to share. Just took your time and made a friend of this extraordinary man. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time if you will just realize it! I love the dreamy painting!

  9. I am sure it was just as lovely an experience for John St. John as it was for you.

  10. How nice that he wrote that special note in the book. A lovely memory.

  11. I adore Solvang! We have spent a few afternoons there, and love going in and out of the small shops. What a lovely story!

  12. what a really beautiful memory to have. thanks for sharing it!
    the wonderful things that can happen if we're not busy RUSHING through life. xo

  13. wow such an interesting story of a special day. I enjoyed seeing the photoso and reading about this artist. I imagine it's something you'll never forget. My sis and I drove up to the gates at Michael's ranch but that was it. I love going up the central coast and gosh haven't been to Solvang in such a long time. We did see Willie Nelson at a casino somewhere near there several years ago.

  14. Hi Inger - I enjoyed this story ... how really fortunate - and how wonderful to have his book ... must make such interesting reading. That picture is delightful to see ... and interesting to know about the mountains of Ynez ... while the community of the village - must have made a lovely place to spend time with other Scandinavians ... take care and all the best for 2021 - which is coming I believe!! Hugs - Hilary


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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