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Dude, What's with the Long Drawing?
Austin American Statesman / Nov. 3, 2002

Now here's a work of art that will probably never make it into the Long Center for the Performing Arts, even though it ought to, since it's real long.

Jefferson Waller, a long-haired hippy artist and vagabond who uses the word "dude" as if its 1969, is drawing on paper what he says will be the longest continuos drawing in the world done by a single individual.

"The drawing itself started right outside of Disney world" said Jefferson, 43.

258 Feet...
Jefferson shows the first 105 feet of Finding Nevermore to The Austin American Statesman.

"I asked the question, was it possiible to draw myself at Disney world, if all I had was a pencil and a piece of paper and no money."

Now he's in the Austin area, in hopes of hooking up with Willie Nelson so he can put him in the drawing.

Jefferson's intent is to get his work in progress -- he calls it "Finding Nevermore" -- into the Guinness Book of Records. "Because Edgar Allen Poe wrote a poem called 'Nevermore,' " said Jefferson, referring to Poe's work, "The Raven." Ah, I see.

The project, Jefferson said, will take 10 years. He's been working on it for three years. Whats done of the work is contained in three scrapbooks and is 258 feet long, he said. The illustrations -- each a foot wide -- will eventually make one continous work of art covering Jefferson's nationwide tour.
To date, Jefferson has drawn, among other things, Graceland, Ernest Hemingway's house in Kew West, Fla., and Alice Cooper's restraunt in Phoenix, where he was told by the manager to take a hike. Funny. You wouldn't think Alice Coopers people would be stuffy.

"The place was full of yuppies," Jefferson said. The manager "looked at the drawing, and he looked at me, and said, 'I'll have to ask you to leave, and I'll also have to ask you not to come back.' " Hey who needs Alice Cooper?
Jefferson has traveled around the nation by hitvhhiking and by drivingtwo beat - up cars, one of which is now dead somewhere in Virginia.

These days, he's getting around in an '88 Buick Regal that was given to him by a guy in exchange for painting the guy's race car. "It's an old, beat-up car, but I'm an old beat-up guy, so I'm cool with that," Jefferson said.

He has a long way to go to complete his work. To qualify for the record, currently held by no one, he said, Guinness requires the artwork to measure at least a kilometer. That means he's got 3,022.8 feet to go.

"If I don't make it, I'm goin to be the little engine that always tried," Jefferson said, compairing himself to the never-say- die choo choo in the childrens book "The Little Engine That Could."

Jefferson goes where the spirits tell him to. He went to draw Hemmingway's place "because I thought I heard Hemmingway whispering my name," he explained. Hey, at least Hemmingway wasn't screaming at him.

So what does this thing look like? I would describe the style of the brite colored work as vivid hippy art, full of little sayings and observations by the artist, who commonly draws himself into his works. In the drawings, he is often shown entering various doors.

"I always draw myself walking in the door," Jefferson said. As opposed to being thrown out of the door. So he can find Willie's door, Jefferson has hooked up with John Henry Franks, whose father and uncle, Bo and Scooter Franks, sell T-shirts at Willie's concerts. Jefferson met John Henry a couple of Saturdays ago while John Henry was watching the Kansas State - Texas game on TV out at Pootie's Hilltop Bar & Grill in Spicewood. The two have been hanging out together on occasion ever since. They've even stretched the artwork through the bar and out the front door to see how long it looked.
"I said, "You're part of Willie's family,' " Jefferson recalled of his fortuitous meeting with John Henry. "I said, 'How cool, you're the dude.' " For his part, John Henry intends to get Jefferson backstage with Willie during one of his performances.

Except for the Alice Cooper experience, Jefferson said, he usually has been well - recieved. Up to Bangor, Maine, while he was drawing Steven King's house, he camped out in yard of one og King's neighbors for three days.
"She liked me alot," Jefferson said. "She told me I could stay there as long as I wanted to. She told me the only problem would have been if I walked threw the gate at Steven King's house." Yea, you could see how that could be problematic.

This project nearly turned international. When Jefferson tried to cross into Canada, border agents wouldn't let him in. "I told the dude, 'I can't believe you let draft dodgers in Canada, and you wont let me in Canada,' " Jefferson said.

By the way, Jefferson plans to go to Dallas to draw the cowboys into his work. Who knows maybe Jerry Jones is whispering to him.
~John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.



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