A Connecticut Yankee in Alabama’s piney woods

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 22, 2002

Features Editor

To say that Brian Bellemare found himself after three decades of searching, might be misleading.

Bellemare was doing rather well for himself as a bellman at a fancy hotel in Connecticut, but something kept tugging at him, urging him away from the hustle and bustle of the big city to the quiet, slow life in the South. The cold, snowy winters of the Eastern seaboard did more than urge him south. They pushed him southward with an icy blast.

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Bellemare, laughingly, said he longed for warm weather and the laid-back lifestyle that are trademarks of Dixie. However, he might never have made that move had it not been for a friend.

"He talked to me about moving south and I considered it, but not seriously," he said.

But one day, his artistic talent was recognized by a Connecticut lady named Cornfield and that in itself might have been prophetic.

"I had done a little painting here and there, but didn’t think of myself as an artist," Bellemare said. "In fact, I flunked out of art class when I was in school, so I had no reason to think I could draw or paint."

But, a lady named Cornfield saw his potential and gave him the encouragement and confidence to "go for it."

"She said she though I had something and I wondered if she might be right," Bellemare said.

So, a few months ago, he made two bold "strokes."

First, he moved to the South and found rural Pike County to his liking.

Secondly, he decided to try "working" at painting in hopes that he could make a go of it.

"I’ve gotten passionate about my art," he said. "I realized that maybe the reason I flunked out of art class was because I wanted to do it my way instead of my instructor’s way. There’s no one to tell me now how to do it. I can do it my way."

His way is the way of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

"I’d heard of those artists before, but I had never seen any of their work, or, if I had, I didn’t know it," he said. "Someone told me I need to get a book and look at Picasso’s paintings – that mine were a lot like his. Many of my paintings have been abstract. I like that. I’ve read a lot about Picasso. He wasn’t afraid to do something different. I like to do different things with my art. Things just come to me and I can’t wait to put them on canvas."

Almost with the same enthusiasm he "woke up" to art at age 30, Bellemare wakes up to new ideas.

"I’ll be in bed and, suddenly, I’ll have an idea and I’ll jump out of bed and run out to my studio," he said. "My wife’s not happy about that, but that’s the way I work."

Bellemare has recently started to paint people and he’s becoming passionate about "them."

"I like to paint older people, especially, those whose lives have been difficult," he said. "They have so much character and so much feeling about them.

I want to capture that on canvas."

Bellemare is painting a panel of the "downtrodden" for the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge.

"I’m excited to be a part of this project and have given a lot of thought to the panel," he said. "This will be a chance to capture a time and its people. I’m beginning to become passionate about people, too."

Bellemare said he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to earn a living with his newly found talent, but he’s willing to "go for it" because there aren’t many bellhop jobs around the cornfields of rural Pike County."