Interviewed by Sarah Tse | Written by Donna Lander | 2017
Gerome Meminger, Sr. began his art career at the tender age of five years. His mother understood his talent and potential, and requested he paint and sell a pair of lovebirds to her for only $1. She was a wise and smart businesswoman, a visionary! This propelled him down a path of artistic discovery which would wind and turn its way throughout his life, continuing his journey of expression up to this day. Throughout his teen years, Gerome wrote poetry and received high grades from his teachers. This birthed his love for the written word, which eventually led to the publication of his art and poetry book fourteen years ago.
Art, in the form of impressionist painting, gushed out of Gerome’s soul. As an expression of himself, he would paint pictures for his home. Friends came by, saw the paintings, and asked for copies. One thing led to another, and eventually he decided to try an art show in abstract impressionist style. He had no patience to paint realism, which is too meticulous. His love for the abstract, the relationship of vivid color and form produced by long brush strokes, put Gerome in his comfort zone. One art show gushed into another, and eventually Gerome Meminger’s name became known in the local art and music scene. Jazz music concert performances became another public display for his artwork. During live stage shows, he listened to the musicians, became inspired, and painted whatever flowed out of his heart and mind in response. He would speed paint and complete a painting in about 10 minutes. Later, Gerome’s brother assisted in setting his paintings on display for sale after the concert. At one of the jazz concerts, Sheila E, the world-famous percussionist, watched Meminger as he painted and applauded his artwork, bringing his painting to the stage and acknowledging him to the audience. Wyland, the marine life artist, collaborated with Gerome on a project for the Department of Forestry. Dawn, singer-songwriter, was so impressed by his work, she bought the 1st limited edition print “Dawn” found in Poetry, Art & Truth. His artwork has gathered a following and he continues this method of art work today.
As an abstract artist, he does not give explanations of his artwork to the viewer. According to Meminger, once an explanation for the art piece has been offered, the subject or intent of the artwork gets lost. Instead of providing explanations, he found a way to bring a unifying theme to his abstract art by combining his two loves. At his art shows, he began combining his love of art with his love for poetry by creating bookmarks. These bookmarks began with the title of a painting at the top, the artwork and poem in the middle, and the title of the painting repeated at the bottom. These bookmarks started as a small stream, only about twenty. But they were so successful, people were collecting and asking for more! Soon the stream became a river which led to a flood, and bookmarks were not enough! Gerome found he kept repeating the phrase, “When I write a book…” and then he realized, the time was NOW.
Poetry, Art & Truth, A Picture and a Story was completed, start to finish within 5 months, an amazing feat in and of itself. What made this feat easier? Gerome had the blueprint for the book already fluid and flowing in his head. Forty poems had already been written, and therefore only needed to be organized and perfected. Once he determined the number of pages for the piece, he decided to include some additional poems. The book was structured or laid out based on the bookmarks, with each painting combined with descriptive poetry. As an artist, Gerome demanded the accuracy of colors be prioritized over other issues. According to his experience, the color in the illustrations, whether vibrant, muted, dynamic, or dull, needed to depict exactly what he desired to portray. Color is his signature, as it is with any artist! In addition to color, the meaning and context of his poetry and paintings dictated his choice to self-publish. Gerome committed himself to this purpose because he instinctively understood editors would change his writings, which he vehemently did not want to happen. These two dynamic issues, color and protection of his written pieces, dictated his desire to self-publish and sent the coursing current of his life to intersect with Sarah Y. Tse, and TSE Worldwide Press, Inc. By the end of publication, Poetry, Art& Truth contained 117 pages, 71 paintings, and more than 40 poems!
The second publication was not far behind. The gentle movement of streaming ideas continued to come. Always up for a challenge, he decided to pursue the authorship of a children’s book, an idea that had formed even before the art/poetry book. As a child, Gerome remembered he had only enjoyed reading comic and picture books. Out of this memory, and the enthusiastic encouragement of public response to his first poetry book, he challenged himself to write a book that served as a teaching tool, where children would learn and embrace concepts while enjoying the pleasure of reading. He confessed that if children embraced his literature in the way adults had embraced his poetry art book, he would consider himself a success and legitimate author. Thus, The Little Blue Book came to the surface in 2004. This is a story of a lonely little blue book who lives in a library and longs for someone to check him out and take him home to read. He is sad until one day, his dream comes true and a child checks him out of the library. Soon, other little children fall in love with the little blue book and read him over and over. The public embraced his concept and so Meminger decided to have a Little Blue Book Costume created so the character could to travel to libraries, hospitals, homeless shelters and other places in the city promoting reading. Today, when he conducts an art exhibit, people will ask about the Little Blue Book who lives in the library.
Embracing the success of The Little Blue Book, the vision for a series of adventure books for the Little Blue Book character produced his third book, Adventures of the Little Blue Book Saving Pennies, Nickels and Dollars! The setting for all of Little Blue Book’s adventures occur in the library. In this particular topic, Little Blue teaches children the value of cash money. Gerome’s concern, like a tidal wave, grew after acknowledging and observing children today understand little about the value of money. Children see cash come from a machine after pushing buttons, and we pay for things with plastic cards. Therefore, children don’t see or feel the visible change that occurs when money leaves their bank account or wallet. When there is no meaning, there is no value. He wanted to teach these concepts of money and saving for the future. The story fluidly explains this life lesson using Mom and Daddy Book characters telling Little Blue Book how saving money is important so they can buy what they need: a book, a bike, a car, even a house someday in the future. After the story was written, he faced the need of a financial backer to assist him with publishing. When the Mayor of Hampton, VA heard about Meminger’s story and the life lessons for children, he contacted Old Point National Bank, on behalf of Gerome, and asked for a grant. The Vice President of the bank gave him a grant to publish the book. A copy of the Adventures of the Little Blue Book Saving Pennies, Nickels and Dollars is proudly displayed in each branch of Old Point National Bank.
The ideas continue to rush. The Little Blue Book finds adventure in: how to take care of books, how to recycle, how to eat vegetables and get the right nutrition, how to deal with bullying, space discovery, and more! The foundation has been built, and now he is ready to approach a publishing company with his series. Within the next five years, Gerome hopes Little Blue Book will continue to connect with children in a positive productive way. His book is different in that he represents life messages and lessons in positive powerful words, and colorful vibrant colors. He hopes children will jump in, swim in the pool of words, and repeat, repeat, repeat, until the lesson is absorbed. He longs for children to appreciate books and spark an interest, eventually leading to a love of reading. Not only would this bring Meminger happiness, it would be a fulfillment of a dream as an author!
One extremely special and rewarding experience occurred when he was promoting his Little Blue Books. A little girl saw the Little Blue Book and wanted her mother to purchase it for her. This little girl’s teacher had read the book to her class at school. So, the mother bought the book and Gerome autographed it. The little girl held that treasured book to her chest and kept saying, “mine, mine, mine.” The book had a label where the girl could write her name to show it belonged to her. This prized gift of ownership was an awe occurring moment, and it filled him with joy! Meminger hopes that once his book is owned by a child, he or she will carefully protect it as an art piece to keep and pass to the next generation.
With many special moments already flowing in the current of success as an artist and author, the most memorable moment in the journey of publishing might be difficult to fish out. Gerome pushes himself to strive for excellence and truth. His concern that he could have done better nags at the back of his mind, and the thought he isn’t sure he got everything correct rolls around. When he received Poetry, Art & Truth, A Picture and a Story from Sarah Y. Tse and the moment of truth came, he was nervous and couldn’t open the book. In the end, when he gathered the courage to look, his most memorable moment popped to the surface! He was overwhelmed with happiness. “This is just what I was looking for…. Wow, did I just do this?”
After the amazement had some time to be absorbed, his self-reflection on the publishing process began. Gerome’s advice to others who are interested in self-publishing: “Love your book, but don’t be in love with your book. Be willing to accept advice and corrections. Have an open mind, and be ready for constructive criticism. Don’t be offended if not everyone accepts or even likes your book. Think in terms of what others would like to read.” And don’t be consumed by the project….As part of expanding his horizons and stretching himself, Gerome closed his art gallery and became involved with a jazz legacy foundation formed 6 years ago. The foundation holds a Jazz Legacy Gala annually. During the 4-day event, major jazz artists perform in the Hampton Roads Area. While artists perform, Gerome sets up his easel off to the side of the stage and becomes a part of the musical performance. He becomes part of the music and paints on a 30×40 canvas in response to what he feels in the music. The resulting art piece is sold in a “wet sale.” Jazz on canvas, Miles Davis style mix…The Gerome Project!
If you would like to reach Gerome Meminger, whether media or public, contact him at the following: www.artbygerome.com