Leaving a legacy

·10 min read

Aug. 13—For the past six years, Ron Clement has been living in the Kegley area during the warm months of the year.

He has gotten very involved in the art community in the Princeton area, and he has helped with several projects in the community. Clement feels that Princeton is helping him become a more legitimate artist.

He said, "This is my summer home."

"So, I've been here six summers," Clement added. "I go back to Florida in the middle to end of October, and I stay there until the middle to end of April."

Clement first started painting in order to relieve himself of stressors from life and work.

"I've been painting since like 1985, I believe," said Clement.

"I started because I'd come home so frustrated all the time, and I couldn't sleep," Clement added. "So one night I just got out a bunch of stuff, and I really like the movie 'Amadeus' and its marquee photo of it, so I decided I was going to paint that."

He had stayed up until around 3 a.m. finishing that piece, and that is what he says started him painting.

"After painting that night, I thought I would be tired, but I wasn't," said Clement. "I was relaxed and calmed."

Clement was born and raised in California, and he spent most of his adult life there; however, once he retired, he moved to Ohio.

Painting was never Clement's main source of income, he actually worked in college administration for many years.

"I was a school teacher, and I went on and got my master's," he said.

"I got into college administration, admissions and recruitment, marketing at colleges. I retired as the Dean of Admissions from a small university outside of Chicago," Clement explained.

Though college administration was his main job, Clement did see some success throughout his life with his art.

"I was in my first gallery in 1989," he said.

Clement lived in a studio apartment in San Francisco, and he said that in his building, there was a large studio.

"Me and a few friends rented out the studio, and we would do showings and things like that in it," Clement said.

He added, "That was the longest time I was ever at one gallery, and we did for around two years."

Clement felt that his time in that gallery really boosted his confidence in his ability an artistic skills.

"It took me years to consider myself a legitimate artist," he said. "When I had started, I was just painting for friends and relations, but I never trusted their praise."

It was not until he opened the gallery that he got the validation that he needed to feel like a real artist.

"On our opening day, I wasn't expecting a lot of people, maybe a couple in at a time, but they just kept coming by the thousands," Clement explained. "I got lost in the crowd of them, and I just listened to what they were saying."

Clement said that those people at the gallery were just commenting on the art not knowing that the artist was standing right next to them. He just felt that they were so honest and that he could believe their words more than he did his family and friends.

He continued to progress in his art and get more into artistic communities, so he just wanted to keep learning more.

"When I was very young, and I just started out, I was at this street fair and saw this artist," Clement recalled. "I said to him 'How did you learn to do that? Did you take classes? Study in school?'"

He added, "He said to me, 'No, if you want to be good, don't take classes. They'll teach your unique talent away.'"

Clement said he went to only one class, and he understood what the artist told him.

He continued to do his art on his own talent and skill from then on.

Clement really enjoyed getting to paint and showing his work, but he knew that in order to make a living, he needed to focus on his career.

"I knew I had to get back to my career to make money, but I kept painting too," he said.

From there, Clement focused on his career, and he continued creating for friends and family, and painting Christmas cards.

Painting Christmas cards has become a tradition for Clement.

"Every year for the last 25 going on 30 years, I've done Christmas cards," said Clement.

Though Clement was not looking to make a living with his art at that time, he still was able to show some of his work in other galleries over the year.

He painted so much over the years, and Clement said that his mother was his biggest fan.

"My mother was my best collector, but when I first started, I noticed that she already had a favorite artist. She had her pieces everywhere," said Clement.

He recalls telling his mother, "Someday, I'm going to outnumber her on your walls."

Clement said he eventually did outnumber the other artist.

After Clement moved to Ohio for his retirement, he found that he could not handle the copious amount of snow they received in the winter, so he moved to Florida. However, he found that he could not take the extreme heat of the summer.

Clement decided he really like living in Florida during the cooler months, but instead of going to Ohio in the summer, he decided to buy an RV and travel the country.

"I had my condo still, but I had an RV for two years, and the second year, I did a 9,000 mile square around the country," said Clement.

Clement has been here for six years now, and he found the area through a friend of his that lives locally.

Clement said when he first got to the Mercer County area, he just fell in love with the beauty of the mountains and the area itself.

"My friend who also has a condo in Florida, has a summer home up in Lashmeet, so I stayed at his place with my RV. I discovered this area, which is so beautiful," Clement explained.

He followed with, "I spent the next year looking for a place, and I found this place (his home) on Zillow."

He also really loved the area because most of his work is based on things that he had seen and places he had been, his back yard, which he called "Sunset Acres," is his main muse right now .

"I do a lot of mountain scape, and as you can see, I'm kind of obsessed with the view from my back yard," said Clement.

Now that he lived here in the warm months of the year, Clement decided to get involved in the community a bit more.

"I would go down there for the Friday night cruises and stuff, so I went to an open house at the Royal Theater," said Clement.

When he went to the open house, Clement found out about the Renaissance Project that the theater was doing, and he wanted to get involved.

"I showed them some of my work at the open house with the little portfolio thing that I keep on my phone," said Clement.

He added, "Upstairs they have small, little, intimate theater for poetry reading and things like that, and I said I'd like to be a part of anything they did."

The theater really liked Clement's work, and they eventually asked him to paint a mural in the theater.

"When they asked me to do this mural, the idea of it was to do bottle cap art," he said.

Clement said he hopes to eventually be able to facilitate art classes at the theater when it does get finished.

"You can't teach painting, but you can show techniques and what happens when you move a brush here or there," explained Clement

The theater's renovations have been stalled as of right now because of costs, but he still credits them for helping him have the ability to progress his artistry.

"This town, Princeton, is the one that has really given me the opportunity to kind of leave a legacy and do something because last year when the Royal Theater in Princeton was being renovated, they asked me to do a mural for the inside of it," said Clement.

It did not take him too long to finish the mural, and after that, Clement was invited to a dinner at the theater which is where he met Mike Webb, Princeton City Manager.

At the dinner, Clement was approached by Webb and Lori McKinney from the Riff Raff Arts Collective with a proposal of another mural

"They proposed the idea of opening the dog park before the Fourth of July, and they asked me to do a mural for it," said Clement.

He added, "I'm 75 years old, and I'm not a pessimistic about my life, but I know that I've already lived much of my life. If I'm going to be a real artist, I need to leave a legacy."

Clement agreed to do it, and this project would become the largest piece he had ever painted.

"When they asked me to do it, I thought to myself, 'Wait a minute, they're asking me to paint the side of a building,'" said Clement. "I'm 75 years old, how am I going to paint the side of a building?"

It all worked out for Clement in the process of the mural. The city provided everything he needed including a lift, a projector, and all the paint.

"It took me 16 days, a total of 360 hours, but it was worth it," he said.

This was one of his longer pieces because for the most part, Clement said that he painted most of his work within a day, but he did have a few things that took longer than most.

Clement really loved doing the dog park mural.

"When I got the chance to do that mural, I got so excited," he said. "That mural is going to be on that wall for a whole bunch of years."

On opening day, the city presented a plaque on the wall giving Clement his credit for the mural.

This made him so happy because it is his life goal to leave a legacy and have his art keep moving on through the years.

"My art has to survive me," Clement said.

He added, "It may be very selfish of me, but it means I get to be a real artist and leave a legacy."

Clement feels that Princeton is helping him do this, and he said that this year has been the best summer he had ever had here.

"I've done so many projects this year," he said. "I even performed in front of people that I didn't know for the first time the other night at the Riff Raff. I play the baritone ukulele."

Clement also encourage people to branch out and try their hand at art

"Talent is a judgement others place upon you," he explained.

Clement also added, "Everybody can paint. The biggest hinderance to doing painting, especially water colors, is when people try to do it when they try to make paint the exact thing they're trying to do. Nature doesn't do that, nature happens."

As mentioned before, he hopes to facilitate classes, so others can realize their individual talents.

Clement plans to stay involved with the community, and he eventually wants to be able to say here all year around once he can stand the snow.

"I consider this my home, my primary home."