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April 24, 2009   Email to Friend 

By Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
April 24, 2009

Artist Jack DeLoney shows off a print of 'Harvest At Home,' the 2005 painting commissioned by the Alabama Farmers Federation.
OZARK, Ala. -- When the school bus would stop, young Jack DeLoney didn't waste any time. He'd shoot through the front door, slowing only enough to grab a piece of pecan pie from the kitchen table before racing out the back door and into the peanut fields.

"My grandpa would say, 'You kids are just big enough to be in the way!'" DeLoney now recalls with a laugh. "But it wasn't too long after that, we got to where we could work a little bit around the peanut picker -- or pinder picker as they called it."

Such are the memories -- memories of clothes hanging on the fence, cotton being weighed, milking cows -- that molded and shaped DeLoney into one of the nation's premiere watercolor artists.

Not surprisingly, he's also one of the nation's leading painters of bygone days of farmscapes and rural life -- a love affair that took root in his childhood days in Dale County and blossomed into relationships with the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the National Cotton Growers Association, Bayer Chemical, Progressive Farmer and, of course, the Alabama Farmers Federation.

He has been twice commissioned by the Federation to paint the farmsteads "Here at Home" (1994) and "Harvest at Home" (2005), the latter of which was featured on a Federation Visa credit card and now graces its Web site at www.AlfaFarmers.org.

Now, Federation members are getting another bonus -- 10 percent off anything and everything in DeLoney's art gallery at The Verandas on U.S. 231 in Ozark.

"Any member can call, come down here or go online and any product we have is 10 percent off whether it's an 8-by-10 print or limited edition print," DeLoney said. "I'm proud to be a part of that. Alfa farmers have always been good to me. I've been an Alfa member as far as it goes I guess. I always insured my car, my home, my barns ... even my daddy was an Alfa member."

DeLoney's father, Durward A. DeLoney, was also Jack's chief critic, gently encouraging -- but never sugar-coating -- his criticism of his young son's depictions of farm life. "He was a stickler for details, and honest to a fault" says Jack. "One of the reasons my work is so accurate today is because I listened to him and Grandpa (Ab) DeLoney."

Just as the DeLoney men were behind his attention to details and accuracy, it was Jack's mother who nurtured his love for art. When he was stricken with polio at age 8 and was bed-ridden from time to time, his mother was there to encourage him. "Mamma always saw to it that I always had something to do," said Jack. "She kept me in paints -- I don't remember a how-to-paint book -- but I always had brushes and paint, and that's really where I developed the talent.... You know, the good Lord blesses you in certain ways."

When it came time for college, Jack and his twin brother, Jerry, headed off to college at Troy State where Jack got his introduction into commercial art. "I immediately felt at home there," Jack said. "I felt I could hold my own among my peers. After the first two or three weeks in college, I knew I was going to be an artist."

A year later, the brothers transferred to Auburn University so that Jerry could study veterinary medicine (he later became a renowned small animal eye surgeon). Jack, however, stuck to art and graduated in 1964. Landing a job in the book design department of the United Methodist Publishing House, he moved to Nashville.

"But on the weekends, I found myself pulling out the old left-over watercolors and painting," he says almost sheepishly. "I did my first street show in Nashville. At that first art show, I got a warm response and sold a few paintings. I enjoyed meeting the people and talking about my work with scenes that showed life on the farm."

The attraction to the shows remained when he moved back home and took a civil service job at Fort Rucker as an aviation illustrator. "But I'd go home and I'd paint on nights and on weekends, and I'd do street shows," he said. "I was a street show junkie. In all honesty, that's where I built my reputation and my clientele."

That clientele soon included giants like the National Cotton Growers Association and Bayer Chemical Company which were enamored by DeLoney's attention to detail and nostalgic renderings of simpler days.

"A big break came when I was still working commercially. I sold a watercolor called 'End of an Era.' It was a cotton painting that had my grandfather's house in it. I sold that piece for $7,000 to a man in Texas who just happened to see a print of it. That was one of the final nudges that made me say 'OK, I can do this.' I was already selling some good work, but reaching that $7,000 mark was the real kicker that moved me forward. I think I turned my resignation in two weeks after that.

"That was a major decision, but it's something I had to do," he added. "That's part of the steppingstone you've got to take if you are going to dedicate yourself to it."

And DeLoney is, if anything, dedicated. Not only to art, but to the farm. Although his subjects have included floral stills, wildlife and even a cityscape, he counts farmscapes among his favorites.

The painter with a brush for farms of the past made a name for himself in agricultural circles. Bayer commissioned seven paintings, Southern Progress commissioned three, and the Alabama Peanut Producers Association only recently commissioned a work depicting the history of peanut farming.

He credits APPA Executive Director Randy Griggs with the idea to do a history of the industry. "When he came to me with that idea, I thought, 'Boy, hidey! You are on to something!" DeLoney exclaimed. "I had never done a piece that showed phases of the history ... it took a lot of research on my part, but they furnished me with an awful lot of material. It was very complex, but it was fun." Griggs named the painting, "A Journey Through Time."

"I heard it said one time that farmers are very, very loyal to their crops, and that is true of cotton and peanut farmers in particular," he said. "I'm sure the corn industry is too...soybeans or whatever. But there's nothing as loyal as the cotton and peanut farmer. They love it, and I guess that's why they're out there doing it. That love for their livelihood is part of the nurturing factor of why my work is so collectible."

For more information, visit DeLoney's gallery at 209 North U.S. 231, Ozark, AL 36360, or log on to Web site at www.JackDeLoney.com, or call 1-800-239-417 or (334)774-6877 or email jdeloney@jackdeloney.com.

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