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Off the Beaten Path
Up & Coming/ August 1-7, 2001

He's an artist chasing his dreams. He's abandoned society's idea of the way people should live their lives. Most of all, he's doing exactly what he wants to do with the time God has given him.

Jefferson Waller, a Fayetteville native, has taken on the task of creating the longest continuous drawing and trying to find where in the world he belongs.

It started while Waller was living in Houston, Texas. He had lived there for 11 years, was married, had a house and a son, Bruce. But after a nasty divorce, Waller said he was left wondering where he fit in and what he was supposed to be doing with his life.

"I was lost without her (my wife)," he said. Then one day he was sitting out by I-10 West in Houston and he asked himself the question, "What's at the end of I-10?"

He decided to "draw" his way to find to find the answer to his question. Finally after three months of hitch hiking and drawing for food, Waller got the answer to his question. He said he found a cup of joe at the end of his journey.

Upon his return to Houston, Waller said his friends turned their backs on him because of the divorce.

"I figured I'd spent 11 years here and I was nobody. I could be nobody anywhere" he said. So Waller set out to find where he would fit in. He asked himself "what if all I had was a piece of paper and a pencil?"

And so it began, Waller's continuous blended drawing of what he sees and the people he meets and his inner journey to find where he belongs. His drawing is aptly named - Finding Nevermore. Waller's plan is to let his visions and dreams guide him. "I follow different visions and ideas. Anytime I'm in one place too long, I might start to self destruct," he said. "It's all about the art."

So far, his dreams and visions have taken him from Kissimmee, Florida to Earnest Hemingway's house in the Florida Keys, then all the way up to Steven King's house in Maine. Each leg of the journey was decided on a dream or vision he had. Waller wound his way around the east coast by hitch hiking and drawing to earn his food. Each step is documented in his continuous drawing. The pages depict a different scene of places he has been stranded and people he met along the way. The drawings also contain the signatures of people that became part of the art.

"I tell people if they want to be famous they can sign my artwork," Waller said.

Also sprinkled throughout the art are notes to Waller's son Bruce, family and friends. Along the way, Waller has left a little piece of himself in every town he stops in. He does various painting jobs for people on the side and sometimes just sits in a restaurant or on a corner and draws. "People will come up to me and ask me to draw them or offer to buy me a meal if I draw them something," Waller said.

Waller said that if art is not what he's doing, then he shouldn't waste his time. "God will replenish me," he said. "It's in the art or it doesn't exist"
While in Maine, Waller had a vision of Elvis. He decided Graceland would be his next destination - and that he'd document his journey in his drawings. "It's not getting from point A to point B - it's what's in between," Waller said.
While making his way south he stopped in Worcester, Massachutes. Waller met a junkyard owner named J.B. He supplied Waller with his wings - a 1990 Chevy Corsica. Waller spent nearly a year there, the longest he'd spent anywhere so far.

While on his mission to complete the longest drawing ever Waller said he's run into several people who have tried to convince him to stick around and take a job wherever he's at. But as Waller put it, "I want to live outside the box and don't want to get sucked into the computer."

Waller was not always the wondering artistic nomad he has come to be. Born and raised in Fayetteville, he joined the army in the late 1970s. He got out in 1981 when he realized army life wasn't for him. That was when Waller embarked on his first hitch hiking voyage across the country, ending in California. When he returned to North Carolina, he called a friend in Texas and left for Houston the next day.

"I showed up there with 16 cents in my pocket," he said. That began his 11 years of domestic life - all of which led him to where he is now. After leaving Massachutes several weeks ago, Waller returned to Fayetteville once again for rest and to get his car repaired.

From here, his plan is to go to Graceland, first stopping in Atlanta to visit his friend Moby. "No journey would be complete without seeing the Big white Whale," he said.

Then it's on to visit the King of Rock 'n Roll. Although Waller allows his dreams to dictate the next city he ends up in, his big plan includes drawing Bruce Lee's tomb in Seattle and the San Francisco Bridge, "the ultimate bridge," he said.

Waller said the journey is getting better everyday. "I can go exactly where I want. The art is producing itself," he said.

Ultimately, Waller hopes to become part of the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous drawing. Currently, the drawing is 110 feet long and there's no end in sight.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I wasn't sure what to expect when I first spoke to Jefferson Waller on the phone. He came into my office with an armful of drawings. After talking with him, I felt like I had been with him on his journey. I got to see every place he'd been and the people he met along the way. Also sprinkled throughout the drawing were people's signatures and messages. I felt like I was invading his personal journal by reading the different passages. It was all very incredible. Some messages and drawing brought tears to my eyes, others made me laugh, still others really made me feel like I was sitting at Denny's with him drawing. I must admit, I admire Jefferson for having the guts to do what so many of us only dream about. Good Luck Jefferson and keep in touch.
~~ Heather Middleton, Editor, Up & Coming Magazine



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