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Artist Chronicles his Journey
The Fayetteville Observer / Sunday, Dec. 23, 2001

What a long strange trip it's been for Jefferson Waller.

How strange? Strange enough to include visits to the homes of Earnest Hemingway, Steven King and Elvis Presley. How long? About 150 feet and counting.

Waller, 42, is an artist and Fayetteville native. He's back at his Bonnie Doone home right now, taking a breather from a cross - country meander.

With his long blond hairand beard, he looks a little like Gregg Alman of The Allman Brothers. Waller has been traveling the country from Florida to Maine, from Massachusetts to Tennessee, with periodic stops back in his home town.

148 Feet...
Jefferson shows the first 105 feet of Finding Nevermore to The Fayettesville Observer.

Record of his travels

He's chronicling his journey with his art. Every place he visits, and most every experience he has, Waller puts down a pen and ink on pages of his sketch pad.

The pages are taped together and folded up, accordion style. Stretched out, Waller's mural is 148 feet long. His goal is to have the work published as a coffee table book focusing on America's pop culture icons and landmarks. But there is still more rambling to be done, more scenes to document.
"Asan artist, you get an idea, you have to follow it through," said Waller, showing his art workat his brother's house on Bragg Boulevard. "You don't know where it's going."

Waller's journey started in early 2000. Recently divorced, he had gone to disney World in Orlando, Fla., with the idea of working as a Disney artist.
Waller did some sketch work, but wasn't able to get permanent work with the company. But it was during his trip to Orlando that he came up with the idea for the cross - country trip.

Art for food

Selling and trading his art qork for food, shelter and rides on the way, Waller made his first major stop in the Florida Keys, where he visited Ernest Hemingway's house. Seeing the home of one famous arthur inspired Waller to check out another, so he made as his next goal to visit Bangor, Maine, home of steven King.

There was a lot of ground to cover between Florida and Maine, and Waller expressed much of it in art. He cronicles his hitch hiking experiences through Georgia and South Carolina, avisit to Fayetteville in June 2000 and his trek up to east coast Maine.

In September 2000, Waller arrived in Bangor. He sat outside the gate around King's house and drew the imposing, gothic - looking home.
Waller spent the winter in Worcester, Mass., working for a time in a junkyard. When spring came, he traded a painting for a 1990 chevy Corsica and headed south.

Eventually, Waller was drawn to Graceland. He said officials there let him sit near Elvis Presley's grave and sketch it.

Waller's work is done in a bright, cartoon style that resembles that from underground comics in the 1960s. Acloseattention to detailis evident on every page.

In the style of folk artists such as the late Howard Finster, Waller writes snippets of thoughts, ideas and dialogue in the margins of his drawings. In Atlanta during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he wrote this: "It's the end of the world as we know it. Did we grow closer to God?"

Waller appears as a character in many of his frames, usually as a long - haired figure with a hitch hiking thumb out.

A stream of consciousness feeling runs through Waller's work. For instance, he met an Italian man in his travels, which inspired him to draw an homage to Michaelangelo. Rocking horses appear on some of the pages, a tribute to Waller's late grandmother, Elva Folk, who collected them.

Waller still has plenty of places he wants to visit and people he wants to see. He wants to go to Las Vegas and Mount Rushmore, meet radio shock - jock Howard Stern, and draw it all.

"I figure I'll be doing this for the next few years," Waller said.

In other words, this long strange trip is far from over.

~By Rodger Mullen, his column appears Sunday, Monday and Wednesday in the The Fayetteville Observer.



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