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September 23, 2010   Email to Friend 

DeLoney Paints Tribute To 'America's Cotton Heritage'
By Darryal Ray

DeLoney says 'America's Cotton Heritage' was a 'true labor of love.'
It begins more than 150 years ago with planting cotton by hand, and ends with a scene of round roles and square bales of cotton sitting outside a modern gin.

America's Cotton Heritage is the most complex watercolor Jack DeLoney has ever painted, but the Ozark artist says it's also a "true labor of love" that he hopes will become a collector's item.

"A lot of energy went into this one," said DeLoney. "It took a long time to come together, but it's a gorgeous piece of work, one of my very best I think. I would hope that it's going to be a collector's item. I feel like it will be."

The work will certainly be one that will be hard to come by -- it's a limited edition with only 950 signed and numbered prints and 100 artist's prints.

Like A Journey Through Time which told the story of peanut farming in America through a colorful tri-panel of historical scenes, America's Cotton Heritage follows the progression of the cotton industry through multiple rows of individual scenes.

However, unlike A Journey Through Time, which was commissioned by the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation in observance of its 10th anniversary, America's Cotton Heritage was not commissioned by anyone but DeLoney himself.

"I was brainstorming about what to do for the upcoming cotton season, but it had taken me so long to put my ideas together that I only had a preliminary sketch when I went to the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in Memphis," said DeLoney. "I had been entertaining ideas about who may want to commission the piece, but on the way to Memphis I decided to release it on my own."

As he began researching his subject, he was directed to Herb Wilcutt, an agricultural engineer with Mississippi State University who is considered an authority on the development of the cotton picker and other farm machinery. "He said, 'I'll be glad to help you, but I want you to know, I'm not an artist -- this is all from the point of an engineer.' He really knew the sequence, the progression of the cotton picker."

Soon, however, DeLoney began to realize that the history of the cotton industry would involve much more than a cotton picker. "I got so carried away in my research and what Herb provided led to other things, and I thought, 'Oooh, Jack! It's going to be so complex!' I wanted to include as many facets of the cotton industry as I could but still do justice to the making of the cotton picker," he said.

"This piece took way longer than I anticipated," he added. "I would make layout after layout trying to get this thing to flow, but even with Herb's help, it took two months of research and four months of water colors. It took over a month to draw it. I finally decided, 'Okay, you've got a rough idea. You've got it sketched out. You know it's going to be in a visual, follow-through sequence. So I just had to finally make myself put the paint down, I started on the painting instead of waiting on the drawing. I didn't know where it was going for awhile, and I didn't know how it would be received but I knew I had the passion to attend to it.

"I have really been blessed with the cotton industry and the chemical companies and the seed producers - they've kept Jack DeLoney alive," DeLoney said. "I get asked all the time if I consider myself as documenting history - I will never say yes to that. I just paint from what I remember, and if it turns out to be historical, I'll be happy to have the credit."

For more about DeLoney or 'America's Cotton Heritage,' email jdeloney@jackdeloney.com, visit JackDeLoney.com or stop by at his art gallery at 209 North U.S. Highway 231, Ozark. Phone 1-800-239-4177 or (334)774-6877. Alabama Farmers Federation members receive a 10 percent discount on everything in DeLoney's gallery.

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