At 96, Sherwood resident still paints every day
Joe Adams' room at Avamere at Sherwood is filled with his original oil paintings, all depicting the Western scenes he's recreated throughout his life.
That's 96 years of living: 50 of them spent chronicling the lives of cowboys, Native Americans, horses and more, some pieces that have ended up gracing the covers of magazines.
But these days, Adams isn't shooting for any type of accolades or awards Now, he paints for his own enjoyment.
"I paint every day," said Adams, who uses oils on canvas. "That's kind of neat to be able (to paint). The Lord's granted me that gift."
What's proved to be a plus as he gets older is that he still has decent eyesight and a hand that doesn't shake, he said.
In his prior professional life, Adams worked at what is now called Oregon Health & Science University for 27 years, eventually becoming vice president up on the hill.
"On the side, I always liked to paint and draw — ever since I was a little kid," he said.
But it wasn't until his retirement at Avamere at Sherwood, where he's been for the last five years, that he decided to return to what he really loves to do following a 25-year hiatus.
His longtime residence was Parrett Mountain, just outside of Sherwood, where he raised his family on 10 acres of property.
One of his big artistic influences was Charles Russell, the painter famed for his depictions of the American Old West in the 19th century and early 20th century.
With his retirement home room now serving as a makeshift gallery, Adams said he often begins by sketching his drawing in pencil. Adams said he pays special attention to detail, using his painting of Doc Holliday — of shootout at the O.K. Corral fame — as an example.
"He always had two pearl-handle revolvers," Adams said of his portrayal of the gunslinger brandishing those weapons. "He was a really fast man with his gun."
Other recent paintings include one of Clint Eastwood from his so-called spaghetti Western days, and another showing a Native American paddling a canoe.
"It took a long time to find a picture of (the canoe) but I finally found one that was of a birch bark canoe," Adams said.
In another painting, Adams features a Native American chief who is reflected in a body of water, a difficult work that he had to turn upside down and right side up to paint the exact same image twice.
"I can turn a painting out in a week, but most of the time, I can handle a couple hours a day, so it takes me about a month to turn out a painting," he said.
On a wall in front of his writing easel, Adams has photos of his life that include aviators and World War II airplanes.
"I was a fighter pilot, trained as a Navy fighter pilot on aircraft carriers, and then I became a flight instructor in the Navy," he said, noting that he flew GrummanÂ F6F Hellcats.
During the war, he went to Navy flight instructor school in New Orleans and then went off to Memphis, where he taught students how to fly airplanes.
After three years in the service, he went back to the family farm in Washington, a wheat and cattle ranch in Eastern Washington, where they ran up to 150 shorthorn cattle on 4,000 acres of pasture land.
That same wall of with the military photos includes one of Adams standing next to former President Ronald Reagan — likely in the early 1960s, after Reagan had wrapped up his stint as president of the Screen Actors Guild. It was still several years before the former actor became California's governor, kicking off a political career that culminated with eight years in the White House.
Adams said Reagan wanted to see OHSU's medical school. First, he took the future president to meet his boss, and then to the Oregon State Capitol.
"I went down and picked him up at the street corner, drove him down to Salem," said Adams. "He wanted to meet Mark Hatfield, because Mark was one of the youngest governors in the United States, and I knew Mark real well."
He said the two had a great visit where they discussed farming.
"People say, 'What kind of guy was he?' I said, 'Well, he's the kind of guy you like to be around.' I thought that's the way he was," said Adams.
What advice does Adams have for young painters?
"I say, well you know, if you're going to be a painter, you've got to paint. You can't sit around and look at everybody else's (work). You got to get in there and get your hands dirty, and when you finish, you got to clean your hands with paint thinner," he said.
Adams said as long as he has his eyesight and his hand doesn't shake, he has a thousand ideas in his head of future subjects for his paintings.
"A lot of people get old and they just quit everything, and you can't do that, you got to (keep going). I think we're all here for a while, and God gives us the time to do it. We have to do what we do," he said.
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