Artist Amelia Bedelia has deep roots in Southeast Texas – Beaumont Enterprise | Candle Made Easy

The artist, best known for his drawings for the Amelia Bedelia book series, chatted to Zoom – his first time – from his home in Simsbury, Connecticut. Lynn’s father was born in Alexandria, Louisiana and was a construction worker and the family moved to Port Arthur when Lynn was about 4 or 5 years old. From there the family moved to Nederland, where he grew up.

After high school, Lynn attended what was then Lamar Tech to study graphic design, where his teacher Myrtle Kerr encouraged him to take up printmaking. While there he did graphics for the student newspaper. Sweat said he loved newspapers and also worked at Mid-County Review doing camerawork, layout and pasting, which fueled his love of newspapers and media in general.

One of his first jobs was at KBMT, then a UHF TV station outside of Vidor. From there he moved to KFDM and made promotional cards. He also worked for Beaumont Enterprise, replacing for a time Jack Shofner, who drew editorial cartoons. He was friends with Milton Turner from college, and Turner wrote some of the early articles on Sweat’s work.

Lynn had his first solo exhibition at the Beaumont Art Museum, now the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

“The great thing about being an artist is sometimes people have a crazy reaction to your work, they love it,” said Lynn. “[Director]Jo Scurlock had seen my work and she said, ‘Lynn, you must have a one-man show. And you know, after that show, I made friends for life – I sold paintings very cheaply.”

Lynn laughed, as he often does. Each piece of information is accompanied by an anecdote, many of which are accompanied by more laughs on both sides of the screen.

Eventually, Lynn made his way to Houston where, after working for a few studios, he was approached by Frank Tammen, son of the man who started the Denver Post. He invited Lynn to join his agency.

“He said to me, ‘Look, I have a little printing press here. You can be my partner,’” Lynn said. “So I just jumped in and did it. And we started printing material. So when I started and moved to New York I had a perfect portfolio to show my work. To me. It was just great.”

In the late 1960s, Lynn was married to Elynor Irene – “the lady behind the artist” – and the couple had two boys and two girls. He worked with the celebrated naturalist Jack Cowan and his work began to be noticed from afar. A writer for ARTnews magazine told him it was time to go to a big city.

“I had a friend there who worked for an art studio in New York City. His name was Tom Ballinger and he’s a wonderful artist that I met in Houston,” said Lynn. “So that was my contact. I put my family in my car and drove to New York. Yes, you have to be young to take risks like that, right?”

Lynn went on a reconnaissance mission and arrived in the Big Apple with $250 in his wallet. His wife said the Roosevelt Hotel near Grand Central Station would be a nice place to stay.

“I took a cab there and the guy gave me the price for the night,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, oh, my 250s aren’t going to last very long.’ So, I said, I’m going for a walk. I walked over to the west side, across Madison Avenue, and I found a small hotel that I never found again, but it had people who were blind with walking sticks. I think it was $35 or $40 a week which is perfect.”

Lynn has put together his portfolio and made a few calls. He met a man named Alan Walski who offered him the opportunity to create material for a Sophia Loren film The Fall of the Roman Empire.

“We worked on a campaign for a week,” Lynn said. “I finished my week and said (I) have to go back to Texas to see my family. He promised everything would be fine. So I went back and got my family and drove back. It turns out the campaign didn’t materialize (but) that’s how it started.”

The film business was in flux, with studios using photographs instead of graphics for posters, and Lynn soon found herself designing book covers.

“I love the covers,” he said. “Books are certainly a great love of my life. I started making some book covers. One thing led to another and it was a slow process, but it all worked out.”

In addition to the covers, Susan Hirschman, editor at William Morrow, saw a small book Lynn had made for his children called Birds Without Words. She suggested that he try his hand at a children’s book. Lynn’s first book was Cluck the Captain’s Chicken, which was picked up for television, he said. After that he did a few more.

“One of the better ones was called ‘The Wonderful Hunting Dog,'” he said. “It was just a story about an old lady who had a hound that hunted rabbits. And my editor was interested in women’s liberation (and) loved the idea (that) the master was a woman.”

Lynn said he thinks of his designs in terms of simplicity and graphics. He is best known as the illustrator of “Amelia Bedelia” – he has illustrated more of the classic series than any other artist. He remembers an editor once making a suggestion.

“She said, ‘I have a great idea, Lynn, let’s do a parade on that last page.’ Well, I don’t do parades. i do singles I don’t do ‘Where’s Waldo?’ you know?” he said with a chuckle.

Despite the simplicity of his illustrations, Lynn says he is inspired by the great masters such as Caravaggio, Reubens and Rembrandt.

“In the beginning I don’t know how things happened, but even in high school I watched Rembrandt and DaVinci,” he said. “So I tried all these things early on. Someone says, “Where do you get your ideas from?” And you know, I’m always open to new ideas. Everywhere I look, I see ideas. I call it the hawk on the wing.”

Today, Lynn produces small oil paintings, many of which are for sale through The Art Studio, Inc. in downtown Beaumont. He donated the organization’s works to help with their capital campaign to repair the roof. He visited The Studio more than 20 years ago when he was invited to judge their members show. He made friends quickly and learned to work with clay from Greg Busceme, Steve Herron and Pam Oneil – other people he considers lifelong friends.

“When I heard that The Art Studio had problems with the roof, I said, ‘You know, I’m just going to donate a few paintings,'” Lynn said. “I started sending packages of five paintings downstairs and Michelle Cate was my contact. She made videos, opened the packages and immediately showed the paintings. And I sent her another batch. And if someone bought a painting, she would do it to the person holding it.

“And that’s the artist’s reward when someone buys your painting.”

Lynn’s paintings are rich in color and seem to glow with an inner light. He said he was inspired by artist Paul Gauguin, who wrote about returning from an evening painting.

“He once wrote a letter describing his reaction to color, which really stuck with me,” Lynn said. “It’s late in the evening and there were these carved clogs, sabots, and he says, ‘I’m looking for the sound of my clogs on the ground.’

“I thought this is a wonderful color image, to me this soft, muted colour, as he put it, it was beautifully done. But a clog that touches the ground. It’s a crazy thing. It’s crazy, but it really hit me.”

Lynn may be 88 years old, but his passion for art is as bright as his painting, and he remains an advocate for the art community in Southeast Texas. He recalls chatting with Lynne Lokensgard, longtime professor of art history at Lamar University, after a lunch date.

“We drive back and I said, ‘Lynne, you know, Beaumont is a little bit like Florence in Italy,'” he said. “She said, ‘What?’ I meant Beaumont had little art enclaves too. It’s unique that Beaumont had all these little pieces of art.”

“There’s just an artist spirit there. There really is.”

To see more of his work visit lynnsweat.illustrator on Instagram.

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