WALLA WALLA — The artist who made his local acclaim on the corner of First and Main, usually right in front of or inside Starbucks, released his first series of books this week.
“I don’t’ know where this is all headed to be honest with you,” Glen Greenwalt said in a recent phone interview from his Seattle apartment, all the while sounding more concerned with creating art than marketing it.
Nevertheless, the new coffee book author will make several guest appearances at bookstores across the Northwest to promote his latest released work, and his first visit will be across the street from Starbucks at Book & Game Co. on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Greenwalt’s art career started in the mid-1990s when he was encouraged by his father to take up drawing. At the time, Greenwalt had been working the last two decades as a theology professor at Walla Walla College. It was only a couple years after taking up drawing that he gave up teaching theology and pursued an art career, which included attending the New York Academy of Art.
“I love to draw. It is somehow magical to me. Looking at my drawings (knowing) that they are printed is almost like looking at someone else’s work. I see things I did not remember doing in drawings. I hear that writers have the same response to works of theirs that end up in print. And I am getting geared up again to paint,” Greenwalt said by email.
Greenwalt still teaches today to help pay the bills, but this time the topic is art.
As for selling his works, the artist admits he is not as passionate about marketing as he is about drawing. He rarely has shows. When he does sell something, it is usually at the request of someone who has seen him drawing in public.
So how does a talented, prolific and passionate artist who shies away from the business of art get to be an author of three books of his own works?
Again, it all started on First and Main.
While showing his works to a friend in Starbucks, a suggestion was made that he create a book drawings and include famous quotes with each illustration.
What followed was a study in print.
Greenwalt went online to learn how to get published. It turned out to be a simple process, at least for Greenwalt, who recognizes most would-be authors struggle for years — if ever — to get picked up by an agent or publishing house.
Greenwalt sent out six letters to literary agents. They were followed by three nonresponses, two rejections and one acceptance offer, he said.
“I tell you it has just been a miracle really because it just does not happen,” Greenwalt said.
So a contract was signed and a forward was paid to Greenwalt, who then began compiling the art for a project that would never be.
It was 2008 and the economy was in a downtrend, so the publisher pulled out of the deal. But Greenwalt’s agent, Helen Zimmerman, stuck with the Walla Walla artist, who had since moved from Walla Walla to Seattle. Zimmerman even suggested Greenwalt market three books instead of one, he said.
Almost three years passed until the spring of 2011. Greenwalt was feeling his book would never get picked up and, like many artists from time to time, he was in need of encouragement. It came in an email from his agent detailing how Delphinium Books, partnering with HarperCollins Publishing, wanted all three of Greenwalt’s books.
Greenwalt recounted the exchange by email:
“I woke up feeling depressed,” Greenwalt wrote back in his response to Zimmerman. “Seattle is at its gray worst with clouds, but no rain, and therefore, no reflections and no sparkles. Yesterday, I just added the last piece of furniture to my apartment, a special order, but it looks dumpy, and given its status as a special order, cannot be returned … I could go on tabulating the petty misfortunes I was ruminating on this morning, but I think you get the picture.
“Then I find your email!!!!! Yes, I am ecstatic. I know that seeking validation for one’s work is usually counterproductive, all the same, I needed validation this morning. I opened my email, hoping to find some small word of encouragement from someone, and there was your email!”
Carl Lennertz of Delphinium Books said it is a company policy never to release the number of books published, but did write in an email, “We focused the three books’ efforts on the (Pacific Northwest) as Glen is there, and well, it is wine and coffee country! But stores around the country took copies.”
Each book is a hardback of 100 pages, just shy of 7 inches by 6 inches. And each is filled with approximately 50 of Greenwalt’s drawings accompanied by thought-provoking and often playful quotes and quips.
The books sell for $10.99 each. Greenwalt said he gets about 17 percent.
Greenwalt’s contract requires him to do a number of book signings at various Pacific Northwest locations.
The artist said he welcomes this type of marketing, as it will allow him to travel, meet new people and find new subjects for his work. And he is especially looking forward to returning to First and Main.
“My first showing, I wanted it to be in Walla Walla because that is where it all started.”