(Above: Coyote/Victor, a large canvas by John Simpkins; his work can be seen online at johnsimpkins.com)

By Randi Bjornstad

Self portrait of the artist; from his website

A message appeared in my inbox on Dec. 9 from someone I do not know about someone else I do not know.

The someone else is a longtime artist named John Simpkins, who, according to yet another person I don’t know — Bruce Couch — has started a GoFundMe effort to help the 69-year-old artist, who apparently has lived in the abandoned, one-room Old Andrews Schoolhouse for a decade or more as the only inhabitant of an eastern Oregon ghost town called Andrews.

Given all these mysterious messages, my first reaction was to wonder if any of this is on the level, but after checking out Simpkins’ website and watching a video Couch recommended that Oregon Public Broadcasting ran several years ago about Simpkins and his solitary life in the desert, I had to give it credence.

So, for your information, here is Bruce Couch’s appeal for help for his friend, artist John Simpkins:

Hi, my name is Bruce Couch. About 7 years ago I met John Simpkins. John has become family to me. He is a 69-year-old artist who is the sole inhabitant of the ghost town of Andrews, Oregon, in one of the most remote areas in the United States. His studio and home are on a fenced property where he lives with his dog Chaya.

He paints in the old schoolhouse and lives in the 500 square-foot “teacherage.” He has been living here for over 10 years and expected to live out his life there. In early December he received notice that he had to vacate the property (the owner wants to do construction on the property).

Artist John Simpkins has lived and painted in the old Andrews Schoolhouse in eastern Oregon for more than a decade. Now the owner of the property wants to redevelop it, and the artist suddenly must find a new place to live.

John sells paintings and prints and lives a rather monk-like life. To say he was not prepared for this would be an understatement. John was expecting to live out his life in Andrews and as 2020 has shown us, life throws us curve balls. I am starting this GoFundMe to give John the funds he needs to find a new location to live out the rest of his life with his dog and paint.

Being a Buddhist, he does not need much, but he does need a place to live and paint. He is an exceptional and gentle man and we all need more people like John in our lives. If you are able, please consider a donation. The money will go to finding a new place to live, moving, rent, and expenses needed to settle into a new place. Thank you.

To view John’s work, visit www.johnsimpkins.com …And to get an idea of his lifestyle checkout the Oregon Public Broadcasting story on his life in the desert. https://watch.opb.org/video/oregon-art-beat-painter-john-simpkins/

See the GoFundMe entry at: https://gf.me/v/c/2mjt/27t460sqs0

The Flood Triptych, by John Simpkins, was done on commission in the 1990s; see johnsimpkins.com/the-flood for its complete story.