P&V Radio: Tim Stevenson & Hautes Nöelles HéHo Rouge
"Let me tell you a joke," Tim says as I put away the podcasting equipment after we made this episode last month in his home studio in Florence, Alabama. Humor has always been a strong thread in our friendship, and the jokes are usually solid.
He tells me about a customs agent who searches the same man pushing a wheelbarrow every day for years. He knows the man is smuggling something, but he can't figure out what it is. He can never find anything suspicious in the wheelbarrow. One day, the customs agent is retiring from his post and says, "Hey, I've searched your wheelbarrow every day for all these years. We've become friends! Please, tell me. What are you smuggling?"
"My friend, I am smuggling wheelbarrows."
A few days ago I read that same joke in the introduction to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s posthumous essay collection Armageddon in Retrospect. The forward was written by his son Mark Vonnegut, who two pages later wrote, "The most radical, audacious thing to think is that there might be some point to working hard and thinking hard and reading hard and writing hard and trying to be of service." That's exactly the audacity artist Tim Stevenson has held his entire life; working hard and painting hard and trying to be of service.
Tim and I became good friends in late 2009. From brief conversations he had learned I wanted to be a writer, so he offered to be my mentor. He said he didn't know about writing, but he knew how to be a professional artist and he wanted to help me if he could. What began as a weekly afternoon discussion about staying the course quickly turned into daily visits and hours-long talks about art, creativity, living a spiritual life, and how to be a better human. In many ways, this podcast episode is a re-hash of the countless conversations we've already had.
I think the hardest part about living with the feeling that you have something to say, even a tiny kernel that might inspire another person, is the dueling forces of burden and righteousness. "It's sink or swim and the water's flowing the other way," Tim says in this conversation. But also, "Anything is possible and you can be anything you want to be, and you can assign any meaning you want to that."
While he doesn't subscribe to the idea of destiny, Tim acknowledges he was certainly cut out to be an artist, beginning at age three when his aunt would bribe him with an oatmeal cookie if he drew a picture for her. In his twenties, after serving as an illustrator for the U.S. Army in Vietnam, he burned 450 paintings. They weren't true to who he wanted to be, so he started over.
In his 30s and 40s he painted billboards in and around Augusta, Georgia, as one of the last of the large scale pictorial painters before everything went digital. Now in his late 60s, he's still painting watercolors and oils, drawing and teaching art to a small group of artists. But he never stops hustling, never halts an idea from showing its face, and he still has something to say.
This has been one of my favorite podcast episodes to date because the subject matter is close to my heart. I hope you will find a jewel or two of insight and beauty as well.
Domaine Les Hautes Nöelles HéHo Rouge
In this episode of Pig&Vine Radio we're drinking the Domaine Les Hautes Nöelles delicious quaffer, the HéHo rouge 2015. It's a blend of 45% cabernet franc, 45% grolleau noir and 10% gamay. The grolleau and gamay are made by the carbonic method, which helps impart some of the juiciness and smooth tannins in this wine, while the cab franc is made in the more traditional manner for that grape, allowing a slow skin-contact fermentation which adds backbone to the wine. The domaine is a Muscadet producer in the Loire Valley that practices organic farming.
I've loved this little wine since I first laid eyes on it a few years ago. It's imported by Daniel Johnnes, previous employer and wine mentor of mine in New York. This bottle came from The Carriage Wine and Market, where I collaborate on a monthly wine club by subscription. They are also the organizers behind the fast approaching Florence Wine Fest on March 11.