Jefferson Waller looks the part. His thinning blond hair tumbles
over his shoulders, and scraggly beard covers his chin. On a scorching
hot day recently, he wears jeans and a paint-splattered T-shirt.
Art has been a part of Waller's life for as long as he can remember.
His mother, Rose Waller, said her son has been drawing "since
he was old enough to hold a pencil." Waller started his current
odyssey in early 2000, after he got divorced. He traveled to Disney
World in Orlando, Fla., hoping to get hired there as an artist.
That never panned out, but along the way Waller came up with the
idea of traveling the country and drawing whatever he saw. He calls
it his "coffee cup journal," because so many of the drawings
were done while he sipped coffee in restaurants.
Coffee cups are a recurring motif in Waller's drawings. Waller's
journey has taken him to author Stephen King's home in Bangor,
Maine; to Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West; to Graceland in
Memphis. Waller said he's made some interesting friends along the
way. In Texas, Waller got along well enough with singer Willie
Nelson that he was invited backstage during the singer's recent
tour with Bob Dylan. Waller survived by selling his artwork and
working odd jobs. At one point, he was painting peace signs on
rocks and selling them for $5.
The artist has occasionally interrupted his travels to return
to Fayetteville, where his family lives. He was in town recently
before hitting the road for Texas again. A Lone Star trip provided
the focus for Waller's first collection of drawings, which was
printed by Pinnacle Printing in Houston.
Waller went to Texas in April to see his 21-year-old son who lives
there. While he was there, he looked up several old friends, including
members of Nelson's entourage. For company on the trip, Waller
took his dog, Buster.
Some of the calendar-size, black and white book is from the dog’s
perspective. The style is cartoonish, reminiscent of the underground
comics of the '60s and '70s. Waller peppers his drawings with bits
of dialogue, snippets of conversation and thoughts that occur while
sketching. His goal is to make the recently published book the
first in a series of 12. "Every time I travel it grows because
I try to do a page a day," Waller said. "It is a living
comic strip, and it does tell a story."