Eye for art
By RANDY GONZALES
By RANDY GONZALES
LUCAS -- Artist Eric Abraham tried a "regular" job. After serving in the Air Force, he worked for a spell at Hallmark Cards.
He found out it wasn't for him. Art was.
So Abraham began his long, artistic journey, which has led him across the country, and for the last nine years in Lucas (he spends approximately three months a year in Florida).
"It never ends," he said. "Too much fun."
Abraham, a bearded septuagenarian who is fond of stroking his silver mane, said he is celebrating for the 49th year his 27th birthday (76 years old for non-math whizzes). He has found a home in this tiny town of fewer than 400 residents in Russell County.
In a brochure, the town describes itself as the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas. Not only is there Abraham's Flying Pig Studio and Gallery, but other attractions include the nationally renowned Garden of Eden, the Grassroots Arts Center, as well as the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things -- a mouthful for the average person, but Abraham spews it out faster than you can say lickety-split.
"It draws a lot of people here," Abraham said of the residents' artistic endeavors.
Abraham's studio -- where he also lives -- is a former car dealership nestled between Brant's Meat Market and Bowl Plaza.
Once you enter Abraham's studio, your eye catches a large display area of his work for sale, including a collection of whimsical, 3-D porcelain pieces.
Abraham's collection of 3-D sculptures with pencil drawings includes one on his website titled "Cool Cars Attract Cool Chicks -- Enid, Oklahoma, September 1953."
Many of the pieces, such as that one, reflect different times in Abraham's life. For example, another piece in his gallery shows Abraham as he prepared to leave home for the Air Force.
"Most of them reflect to my history," he said.
Abraham's parents were both artists; they met while in the Works Progress Administration's Artist and Writers Project in New York City in the 1930s. They illustrated children's books for public schools.
Once Abraham got out of the Air Force, he enrolled in Kansas City Art Institute, then worked for Hallmark, where he lasted 21 months.
"I started out in design; they told me my colors were too garish," he said.
Abraham learned his lesson: Do what you love. With his wife and child, they moved to New Mexico and its art scene. After he and his wife divorced, Abraham moved to Vail, Colo., where he lived for a few years in a 1950 Chevrolet school bus converted into a camper.
In 2004, Abraham found the right fit in Lucas.
Abraham has two kilns in the back of his studio. In his living quarters, there is a collection of old radios along one wall.
"I like the designs," he said. "When I was in graduate school, I made sculptures out of old radios."
It feels like home. But nine years in one place is a long time for Abraham.
"It's been a long journey. I still have itchy feet," he said. "I'm getting itchy feet; this is past my limit, really. I stayed in Denver 17 years; before that, five-and-a-half years was my longest in one place."
Abraham doesn't know where the next adventure will lead him.
"Not yet," he said. "Somewhere warmer, yes."
Abraham gives workshops and sells his work at art fairs and festivals, making his living that way. Someone wandering by Abraham's studio knows he's open for business if his red Pontiac is parked out front.
If not, there is a key available across the street at Grassroots Arts Center. They have made sales for Abraham in the past.
Now, where else would Abraham find such Mayberry-esque charm?
Maybe, just maybe, he might reconsider scratching that itch.