Eddie just finished this painting of the newsstand at the top of the Hill, one of his many Chestnut Hill portraits. (Photo by Len Lear)

Eddie just finished this painting of the newsstand at the top of the Hill, one of his many Chestnut Hill portraits. (Photo by Len Lear)

by Eddie Flotte

Ed. Note: Eddie Flotte, 57, is to Chestnut Hill what Andrew Wyeth is to Chester County. His paintings and reproductions hang in private collections all over the world. If you walk or drive down Germantown Avenue, you just might see him in his chair at his easel, painting one of Chestnut Hill’s many landmarks, even though he spends most of the year in Maui, Hawaii (although he insists he really does like cold weather). Eddie’s mom grew up across the street from Pastorius Park, and she encouraged him to use his stunning artistic ability to memorialize the businesses and homes of Chestnut Hill, which he has done. This is the third article in a three-part series.

In 1996, I agreed to illustrate “Angkat, The Cambodian Cinderella,” written by Jewell Reinhart Coburn. Over the years I had turned down many offers to illustrate books. I was very happy and fairly successful. The work I was doing came as naturally as breathing. I excitedly moved from one piece to the next. I was never uninspired.

Those years were sometimes stressful and creatively blocked. When Jewell called me again in 1996, she must have caught me on the perfect day. I remember wanting something fresh. Maybe this book was just the thing, so I agreed. I made clay models on wire armatures. I dressed them in rag costumes and posed them for my sketches. I recruited characters from my neighborhood, dressed and posed them in make-shift costumes with paper mache jewelry, and photographed them for my final paintings. By 1998 it was finished and published by Shen’s Publishing with 28 of my full-color illustrations.

With my newly published book in hand, I went back to Ambler for my first extended stay since 1985 and began painting. I worked for the next three months and rented a booth just in time for the town’s yearly festival. The response to the Ambler paintings was infinitely more than I could have dreamed. The people connected to the images in the deep emotional way I had hoped they would. We sold all of the prints in the first hour and took orders the rest of the day. Since then I have managed to get back home often, for three to four months at a time. I have continued to work there in the surrounding counties and along the Jersey shore. I have been selling my prints in stores there and over the internet ever since.

In 1995 on a whim, I whipped up a few pages of random fantasy sketches. After about six months of working through the night, I wound up with a short animated movie called “A Most Adventurous Dairy Cow.” It is narrated by an original song set to the melody of “Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite” by The Beatles.

I went on to write several other songs designed to weave ballads through a series of my paintings. “Paia My Love,” “Proud to be Ambler” and “Echo Promises of Summer Love” can all be seen on my website. Other original songs illustrated with borrowed online images can also be seen on my YouTube channel, along with videos of my band, Eddie and The Promises. It has also been my pleasure to function as a teacher many times over the years. As with all arts and all disciplines, the more you learn, the more you realize that you have only scratched the surface. I believe the best is yet to come.

Countless angels in the form of friends, family and good Samaritans have made this life of “following my heart” possible. Some I have already mentioned, and others I’d like to mention now. First and foremost, Sandy Cotton, who has unconditionally loved me since the day we met in Lahaina in 1985. Every morsel of my success has her loving touch upon it.

Louise Collins and Mary Shaktey were tandem art teachers at Archbishop Kennedy High School. They literally brought me out of class to explain that my talent was a gift and that I should seriously consider making art my way of life. From that moment on I never second-guessed it. It was they who recommended Hussian School of Art.

Gay Marshall, whom I met during her Philadelphia tour with “A Chorus Line” in 1983, showed me the true meaning of commitment and dedication to one’s dreams. Gay and her husband, Jean Louis Blondeau, welcomed me to stay with them for the six months I spent in Paris. Gay is recognized worldwide as an incredible singer, actress and performer You can see some of her performances on YouTube. She recently published the CD, “Gay Marshall Sings Piaf.” Her husband Jean Louis’ photographs are world renowned. He is featured in the Academy Award-winning movie “Man on a Wire.”

Dave Bullock, who went on to be a phenomenon in the world of animation and superhero cartoons, and his brother Sam allowed me to sleep on their living room couch in L.A. In fact, I was asleep on their couch on the night the North Ridge earthquake of 1993 hit.

Frolic Weymouth is the uncle of my Maui friend, Knox Weymouth. Besides being a great painter himself, he’s the driving force behind the Brandywine Museum and Conservatory. Frolic drove me around Chadds Ford in a horse-drawn carriage, explaining his family history in the area dating back to the Revolutionary War. He told me Andrew Wyeth was his best friend on earth.

Most importantly, I want to thank my family. They are, by far, my toughest critics and loyal advocates. I am forever appreciative of Betsy and Donny Kohn, my sister and brother-in-law, for opening their home to me on my many open-ended visits back east. To call it “hospitality” would not even begin to describe their generosity.

For more information or to see more of Eddie’s work, visit www.eddieflotte.com.