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Educator finds his creative side after retirement

By Steve Hansen


Scattered on the coffee table of Dick Weathermon's Sumner, Wash., home are invitations and announcements from various galleries up and down the Southeast Alaskan coast. As Weathermon '50 opens an envelope and runs his index finger down the list of names of featured artists — a who's who of landscape painters that cater to the Alaskan tourist trade — he asks, in mock surprise: “Who is this? Dick Weathermon?”

The question shouldn't be much of a surprise —Weathermon has sold more than 600 original paintings since he first picked up a paintbrush in 1985. Still, the question is genuine — he remains surprised that someone would actually recognize his name, let alone purchase his paintings.

Weathermon, a regular face around the alumni office, has no formal art training—his only contact with the art world was, in his words, as an “interested looker.” But, as he considered retirement, he thought oil painting might be a pleasant hobby.

His late wife Helen (Jensen '49) gave him an easel and, after a few lessons and a few years, he sold his first work to a bus driver in Sumner.

A few years later, almost by chance, he sold a miniature canvas to a gallery owner in Petersburg, Alaska, for $40. Since then, he's been something of a mainstay in the region, with representation in Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan, as well as several galleries in South Puget Sound—including the Harbor Gallery in Gig Harbor, Sumner Art and Framery, Puyallup Custom Frame and Art Company, and the White Dove Gallery in Lakewood.

As he describes his canvasses—mostly naturescapes of Mt. Rainier and Washington's Cascade Range, as well as the coastal regions of Southeast Alaska — Weathermon discusses the technical and aesthetic lessons he learned with each canvas as much as the time and place he was depicting. “The most exciting thing in life is learning,” he said.

His 35 years in education — much of it as a superintendent of schools in Pullman, Wash., Manila, Philippines, and Sumner — only underscores this viewpoint. It also belies his genuine humility in the face of success. “A superintendent seldom rises above his board,” he said.

Similarly, he considers his paintings a collaboration with Helen, with whom he hiked the trails of Mt. Rainier weekly. Many of his paintings are based on images taken by Helen, an accomplished photographer.

Fall and winter are the seasons Weathermon catalogues his paintings and begins to work on canvasses that likely will be sold during Alaska's tourist season. Still, he sees his pursuits as nothing more than an engaging hobby. “I never want to have to set my alarm clock to paint,” he said.

That mentality allows him the opportunity to pursue other endeavors. This past fall, notably, he spent considerable time working with PLU's alumni office writing and recording the narration to the “75 Years of PLU Football” video. Weathermon was a member of the storied 1947 Pear Bowl football team that won a Thanksgiving Day victory in front of 6,000 fans.

“You're looking at a guy who has lived a charmed life,” he said.

 

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© Scene 2004  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2004

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