by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Any child in grade school could draw you a picture of a car or a house, maybe a face, or even the family pet. He or she may create any of those and be pretty good too. But these skills aren't for everyone, and even if they are pretty good at it most won't stick with it through their lifetime.
I went to grade school with a kid who could do all of the above, and then some. Thomas A. Daly was one of those people. In those days we lived just a block away from one another, but you had to go around the block to get there. His parents would have birthday parties, including his school chums, and lots of times Tommy and I would walk together to his house from Sacred Heart School on South Avenue in Niagara Falls. We would climb what seemed to be real long outside stairs to the second floor, which was above the Finn Funeral Home on Lockport Street and Ontario Avenue. His mom would be waiting for us to come in and hand us each an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola. Some will remember Coke in the old, now a collector's item, green glass Coke bottle.
After school, sometimes we would sneak downstairs and play around the caskets that were stored down there. Even though it was weird we didn't care, we had a good time. After a while, we would trek up to the third floor attic where Tommy's room was, and he had his baseballs and other stuff. There was a small desk in there, and Tommy would sit and start to draw. Nobody would ask him to draw; he just did so when he felt like it. I can remember cartoon characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and whatever Walt Disney character came to his mind. He never copied a picture, just took it out of his head.
As young as I was at the time I was always amazed what this guy could do. All I could do was draw a silhouette of a bird and that was it. Here was a guy who could draw you a bird complete with feather markings and all.
After growing up and leaving school, Tom and I lost touch with each other. Over the years he moved out of town, studied as a graphic artist at the University of Buffalo, got married as I did, and then we both went on to raise our families. Time and technology changes many things through the years, and some 60 years later, in the computer age, we got hooked up. Tom came to visit and we took a little ride around the area with his cousin Jim Carroll, now a retired U.S. Border Patrol Agent. We were showing Tom how things have changed.
Sometime after that - I don't remember the time frame - I received a phone call from Tom. He asked if I knew where he could find a spear from the 1940s-1950s - one that they used for spearing blue pike in the lower Niagara. He stated a wish of wanting to paint a fishing scene of the lower Niagara River from back then. He already owned an antique lantern used down there, and a borrowed spear but he wanted a bigger spear with more tines. I told him "Yeah, I know a guy that has one, Teddy Shipston, a Youngstown native, has one hanging on his living room wall."
A quick call was made to Shipston, explaining what the "artist" wanted to do. He said, "Sure, come and get it." Tom wanted to take it home to his studio and set it up with the other artifacts for painting. The picture you see shows that painting hanging at the Kenan Center in Lockport, with Tom (the good looking guy) on the left and me (in awe) standing on the right. The 24-by-18-inch oil painting on board is simply titled "Lower Niagara."
I must point out here I am the proud owner of a framed print of that very same picture. Tom made sure Shipston received a print - Jerry Farrell, bird enthusiast; Lower Niagara fisherman; and a few selected others - but I don't know their names.
Tom has an exhibition of his works at the Kenan Center Gallery continuing to Sept. 8. Included are paintings of outdoor wildlife, habitats, ducks, small lakes he has fished, hunting expeditions, and some still life paintings.
I am so far from being an art critic. It was never my forte and never will be. But on the first day of Tom's showing last Sunday, my wife and I were there. There were others, art connoisseurs, who filled the place. It was amazing how Daly's art is so well received.
I'll mention some that we took a fancy to. Of course, "Lower Niagara," but also one called, "The Deer and the Crows" - a painting of crows feeding on an expired deer, laying on the snowy ground. A lady standing next to me looked at it with a wrinkled up nose, and said to her friend "Oh, I don't think I like that." Puzzled, I asked her, "Why not?" She replied, "Oh, it looks so cruel."
I explained to her what I thought she should be seeing. "Look close, that is Mother Nature doing her thing, which happens in all wildlife. The crows need to eat, and there is the dinner bell for them." She looked at it and went back to another painting she saw, "The Deer, the Eagle, and the Crows." It was another colorful painting depicting an eagle and the crows feeding in harmony off a carcass in order to survive in the wild. As she walked on to the next painting, she said, "Yes, now I understand it more, I know what you mean."
I don't know if this woman and her friend found the field mouse painting - a 13x10-inch painting of oil on board, called "The Mouse that liked Alizarin Crimson." Tom explained that a mouse snuck into his studio, located above a large barn on his farm, got into his Alizarin Crimson paint and started eating it for some reason. Tom never saw it, just the tracks, so he painted a picture of an expired field mouse, in a way telling it to "leave my paint alone." The painting was a mouse hanging up side down by a string tied to his right rear foot. The mouse never returned after he saw that picture.
I didn't say anything further to the art critic who was standing back from the painting with her nose crinkled and mouth ajar, looking at it with her elbow resting on the mantle. Not thinking too swift, that would have been a picture in itself.
I would have liked to purchase that mouse painting, but my credit card or my checkbook just wouldn't handle the $5,500 asking price.
I'd like to mention here that Tom carves and paints waterfowl decoys, and also has time to expertly tie fishing jigs for himself and some of his friends, which I have a few of. These I wouldn't want to use; I might lose them.
Tom not only is an expert painter of land and nature, he also gets into still paintings such as one called "Still Life with Vase and Chicory," or simpler things like "Baseball and Bat." If you are into the arts, Tom's name is up there with the best. His paintings have appeared in numerous publications, exhibitions, galleries, universities and museums throughout the country.
He has produced two books showing his drawings that can be purchased at the desk at the Kenan Center. Or go to his website, www.thomasaquinasdaly.com, where you can order or find other credentials.
His show continues at the Kenan Center to Sept. 8. Hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday 2 to 5 p.m. the center is closed Labor Day weekend. Admission is free. And on the second floor is an art exhibition by his son, Jonathan Daly that you don't want to miss.