1905 – 1985
"As far back as the early 1700s, many American artists began their careers as sign painters and I can see why. The pleasure of creating a piece of work necessary to the buyer is a satisfaction beyond that of the artisan who paints merely to decorate. Some of America's finest and most prized examples of folk art are antique trade signs and inn signs. The signs I painted on midwest restaurant windows, even on hotel rest room doors, probably gave me more artistic satisfaction than anything I might have accomplished in art schools. I still letter freehand as easily as I write script and still have profound reverence for classic lettering." --Eric Sloane
Sign painter, muralist, prolific author, illustrator, teacher, painter, meteorologist, Eric Sloane began life as Everard Jean Hinrichs in 1905. After his mother died, young Everard launched a string of runaway attempts until his father finally gave him the family Packard Roadster and twenty dollars. That car and twenty dollars got him as far as Ohio where he "set out on foot as an itinerant boy painter." Not much later, he'd earned enough to buy another car and broadened his prospects.
"Henry Ford had not yet invented the glove compartment, but I shared the seat of a Model T with a traveling office of paper and pencils, a dictionary, and sketching equipment." —Eric Sloane
After a stint in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his own sign business, he changed his name.
"When I left Lancaster to wend my way afoot toward the west, I decided to create a new nom de plume and chose the name of my teacher [John Sloan] but added an e to the name of Sloan. I knocked off the first and last two letters of American, which left eric and headed westward as Eric Sloane." —Eric Sloane
Traveling through Taos, New Mexico, not much later, Sloane discovered his true purpose.
"Inspired by the eight-thousand-food view of sky, I had decided to make meteorology and sky painting a life's work and, after all, the best way for me to learn a subject has always been to write a book about it." —Eric Sloane
In this process, Sloane composed one of the great American books on drawing --
It's a personal favorite but only one of a stack of books that Sloane wrote and illustrated on skies and meteorology. These include Skies and the Artist, Look at the Sky and Tell Me The Weather, The Weather Book, For Spacious Skies, Eric Sloane's Book of Storms.
Like John Ruskin, Eric Sloane was most interested in helping people see and understand what they were looking at. His books on drawing, skies and weather help us understand. The rest of his books help us understand the history of America through the mind and hand of an artist and craftsman.
"My research finds that the difference between the early American and the man of today is a matter of awareness. The first pioneers were awake to the dangers and simple differences of the new world's Indians, sudden storms, diseases, wild animals, severe winters, droughts and all the hardships of the great adventure. They were conscious of each moment, magnificently aware of life.
"We today are lethargic, for so many things are done for us. And so we are robbed of the joy and satisfaction of awareness. We switch on lights with no idea of the source, turn a faucet with no idea of where the water comes from. Our clothing might come from New Jersey or Taiwan and even the source of our food is of no particular concern. Few of us know why we are existing and the country with its politics has become too big and complicated for individual awareness. My life's work by writing and painting has been to reawaken the original American consciousness, that quality which created the United States and abounded in earlier days." --Eric Sloane