Some art purchases are just meant to be. “A very interesting day, to be sure,” is all Neil Walling could say about it.

Lead Image: “First Canoe,” by Neil Walling, 2015, oil, 18 x 24 in. Collection of Brent West

Walling was competing in the Glen Arbor Paint Out in Michigan. He was painting the Crystal River, and just as he began, a canoe floated into the scene. “I thought it made a nice, subtle addition,” says Walling. “The canoeist ended up buying the painting at the gala show that evening. I’ve sold other paintings off the easel, but this was the best story.”

The canoeist was an outdoorsman and photographer named Brent West. “I was canoeing the Crystal River Saturday morning and as I was coming up to a certain spot, I noticed a painter on the bridge,” recalls West. “Later, as I was walking back to my truck, I stopped to talk with him and check out the painting. I immediately loved the painting, and then he pointed to the canoe in the painting and said, ‘That’s you!’ It didn’t take long to decide that I wanted it. But it wasn’t that easy. It turns out, this painting won first place in the competition, and I wasn’t the only one who wanted it. I ended up winning the right to buy it by drawing straws. It was a heck of a day. I think the whole thing was just meant to be. The painting now resides on my fireplace mantel. It’s so fresh it still smells of paint.”

Another painting by Walling from that day won People’s Choice. But the drama wasn’t over. “The next day a horrific storm with 80-100 mph winds tore through Glen Arbor, snapping and uprooting hundreds of trees,” reports Walling. “The Crystal River is now impassable and the town is inaccessible and without power!”


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