John and I decided to visit John MacWhinnie at his house and we arranged to meet him one afternoon. MacWhinnie’s house was in Water Mill, a town between Bridgehampton and Southampton.
It was summer and a very sunny day. After we got off the train at Southampton, we walked. We entered an area with extensive farmlands and we followed the paved path between those fields for over an hour. It was a very quiet area. I didn’t see a single person while we were walking along the path. I had no idea where the artist’s house was and how long we had to continue walking. It felt like we had walked a very long time and the artist’s house was still very far away from the town. But I just kept following John.
It looked like John had known where he was walking. We finally arrived at John MacWhinnie’s house. He had been waiting for us and he came out of his house as soon as we arrived.
John and I were standing in the large grassy yard surrounding his house. John MacWhinnie was wearing a Hawaiian printed shirt in blue and white. He had dark shoulder-length hair and the skin of his round belly showed when the wind blew through his shirt. He looked like he was in his mid-40’s.
John MacWhinnie greeted us and we chatted in the yard for a little. He told me that he had Scottish and French background. He said, “Very unusual.” when John said that I had lived in Ireland and studied English there. I found that people tend to think it is unusual to go to Ireland to study English because most people go to the U.S. or England. After that, he led us into his house and we had a conversation in his dining room.
The dining room was quite spacious, but it had a concrete floor and it looked very crude. It was quite dark because there were no windows. There was a large old wooden rectangular table in the middle and some old chairs. It reminded me of the dining room in a hostel or a campground. It wasn’t clear to me if he liked that primitive way or it was just not well taken care of.
While we were talking, a white cat came from the back of the house and jumped on the table that we were standing beside. I moved my face in front of the cat’s face and stared at its face and she did the same. I said, “Good looking cat!” It was a beautiful white female cat with some large dark spots on her. Her name was Spot.
The artist kindly agreed that I could rent space in his house and paint in his studio. We went further into his house where his studio was. His studio occupied the entire left side from the door to the back part of his house. It was large and had a window on the ceiling.
There were bookshelves by the wall on the right side, covering many books that were related to fine art. There, John and John MacWhinnie talked about art for a while. I heard them mention Willem de Kooning often. I didn’t know who Willem De Kooning was then, but this was the beginning of when I started to learn about well-known American modern artists. A lot later, I found out that John MacWhinnie had known De Kooning personally and De Kooning had visited MacWhinnie’s studio.
After that, John and MacWhinnie created my living space by putting in some partitions next to his studio. While MacWhinnie was creating a base for the bed with some cushions, John went to his storage place in Southampton to get the king-size bed that he had kept there. MacWhinnie didn’t look like he was used to doing manual work like that and it seemed like it was a chore for him, but he was smiling. John brought the bed and put it into the space. Actually, this bed was from his father, who had died. Finally, everything was ready for me to move in. I paid MacWhinnie rent of $400 from the money I had made from selling my paintings.